A total of 113 Ugandan female migrant workers who were stranded in Saudi Arabia returned home on Tuesday night aboard a flight chartered by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Mr Richard Kavuma, the IOM public information officer, said the Ugandans aboard an Air Cairo flight, landed at Entebbe International Airport at 8:55pm.
“They (women) reached out to the Ugandan Embassy seeking to be brought back home. Some were sick, others had lost their jobs or their contracts had ended but could not return home because the airport was closed,” Mr Kavuma said yesterday.
He told Daily Monitor that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reached out to IOM in May seeking help to repatriate the women.
Mr Kavuma said initially, 153 female migrant workers had been identified for repatriation but five tested positive for Covid-19 while 35 were considered contacts and were retained in Saudi Arabia for treatment.
Mr Kavuma said the repatriated women were taken straight to a quarantine centre.
He added that government pledged to cover the quarantine costs.
Ugandans returning from abroad are required to stay in quarantine for 14 days at individual’s own cost.
Mr Kavuma, however, said many more Ugandans, mostly migrant workers, are still stranded in Saudi Arabia under poor living conditions.
He said due to the difficult conditions, more Ugandans in Saudi Arabia will soon “be crying out for help.”
Yesterday, the IOM issued a statement decrying the poor conditions of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
“Situations of vulnerability for many migrants, especially those detained, have increased greatly with the sudden onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, including widespread reports of discrimination, xenophobia and the growing risks of human trafficking and exploitation.
IOM has called on all states to ensure the inclusion of migrants, regardless of their status, in all public health responses,” the IOM said in the statement.
President Museveni ordered the closure of Entebbe International Airport on March 22 after the country registered its first case of Covid-19 from a person who had returned from abroad.
Many Ugandans remained stranded in foreign countries as airports worldwide closed due to the pandemic.
On July 28, Uganda Media Centre reported that 557 Ugandans stranded in Saudi Arabia had been repatriated, leaving behind 1,243 registered with the Ugandan embassy there.