Officials from the Directorate of Immigration in the Ministry of Internal Affairs have called on Parliament to amend the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009, to set stringent fines for offenders.
The officials led by Col G.B Kambere, the commissioner for Immigration, made the appeal yesterday before the House Committee on Gender, which is investigating the rampant cases of human trafficking often carried out under the disguise of labour export.
The Immigration officials are particularly not happy with the current law where a human trafficker is fined only 120 currency points (Shs2.4m) upon conviction under Section 8 of the Act.
They also want Section 8(d) amended to make illegal the recruitment of persons below 18 years for external labour. The law provides that only persons below 16 years shall not be recruited for external employment.
Mr Robert Kanuma, the principal immigration officer at Entebbe airport, told the committee chaired by Mr Alex Ndezi (PWDs) that traffickers and external labour recruitment companies have amassed wealth to the extent that they are happy to pay the fine and avoid the five-year custodial sentence provided for in the law.
“The 120 currency points is not an issue to the traffickers. It translates into just Shs2.4m. Is that punitive for recruitment companies that are very rich? You have got to revisit that Act,” Mr Kanuma said.
He was responding to a question raised by Mr Ndezi who asked the Immigration officials whether they are happy with the current law on human trafficking and whether its provisions are fit to cure the current wave of human trafficking.
The MPs also questioned the capacity of the Immigration team to differentiate bettween girls, who are being trafficked for employment in the Middle East, from those that have been legitimately recruited through licensed agencies.
Serere County MP Patrick Okabi (NRM) said the Immigration booths at Entebbe Airport are not always occupied by officials and the few on duty may fail to scrutinise every passenger’s documents.
Col Kambere said the number of Immigration staff was increased from 33 to 81 because of the high number of passengers during the recently concluded Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) in Kampala. He said plans are underway enforce measures to handle Ugandans travelling abroad to work.
Immigration officials told the MPs that efforts to intercept the trafficked victims at Entebbe airport and other border points will not yield the desired results unless there is policy harmonisation so that ministries of Internal Affairs and Labour work closely in curbing the vice.
Col Kambere said some Immigration officials were conniving with non-Ugandans and issue them Ugandan passports.
He revealed that recently, they retrieved more than 10 passports from China after some Nigerians were arrested there travelling on Ugandan documents.
Col Kambere said another Nigerian disguising as Denis Okello was arrested at Entebbe Airport recently but when he was asked to speak any of the local languages of the community that uses that name, he could not.