How the government secured the release of 23 Ugandans from Myanmar

How the government secured the release of 23 Ugandans from Myanmar

A total of 23 Ugandans who were trafficked to Myanmar in recent years returned to Uganda yesterday.

The group returned aboard Ethiopian Airlines, which landed at Entebbe International Airport shortly before noon.

They were received by officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This followed months of talks between the Ugandan government, its Thai counterparts and the IOM.

Late last year, a Ugandan trapped in Myanmar shared a video calling on the government to rescue him.
According to the video, several young Ugandans with computer skills were lured to Thailand with promises of employment.

The culprits were reportedly working in the cryptocurrency business.

In Thailand, the culprits confiscated the group’s travel documents and transported them by road and water to Myanmar, where they were forced to work on farms and perform other odd jobs.

When the Ugandan government learned of the plight of the youths, it immediately contacted the Thai government and managed to establish contact with the culprits who demanded a ransom.

Ugandan ambassador to Thailand Betty Bigombe, however, said the government did not pay the ransom and worked tirelessly to secure the release of the Ugandans.

“As I speak, we still have many other Ugandans locked up there and we are trying to work hard to ensure that they also return home like these others. We still have Ugandans, of all other nationalities, who are still detained,” said Ms Bigombe.

He said human trafficking targets people from poor countries, especially in Africa and Asia, adding that there are currently more than 100,000 foreigners trapped in Myanmar.

“…they (human traffickers) mainly target poor countries or developing countries to attract their citizens because today unemployment, especially among young people, is a very, very important problem. Therefore, we have to find a concerted way to stop this problem,” he stated.

Ugandans stranded in Myanmar arrive at Entebbe International Airport on April 3, 2024. The group’s arrival marked months of diplomatic travel between Uganda, the Thai government and the International Organization for Migration. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

Vincent Bagiire Waiswa, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said human trafficking has become a global problem that needs to be addressed at all levels.

“I want to say that human trafficking, which is a transnational crime, has become increasingly complex and dangerous, especially among young people, women and, to some extent, children, as you can see. The returnees we are receiving are young,” she stated.

Bagiire urged Ugandans to be wary of fraudulent employment schemes.

“The ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior, continues to work to prevent human trafficking through regional and international cooperation. Please tell your colleagues that the idea that there are jobs in other places is a lie. The jobs are here in this country and use your skills to secure them,” he said.

Sanusi Tejan Savage, IOM head of mission in Uganda, said Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja played a crucial role in securing the release of Ugandans trapped in Myanmar.

Savage said Nabbanja met the IOM Director General in Rome, Italy, earlier this year and raised the issue of the trapped Ugandans and requested help to rescue them.

“Today, as a father, having heard what these Ugandans have gone through, I cannot say that I am delighted. Maybe I can say that I am relieved that these Ugandans have returned home from the Royal Republic of Thailand. So let me, on behalf of Haile, welcome you home, my brothers and sisters,” he said.