Saudi Arabia halts visas for Ugandan maids

Thursday May 06 2021
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Thousands of Ugandans leave the country annually to seek greener pastures especially in the Middle East. PHOTO/FILE

By Andrew Bagala

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Kampala has halted issuance of visas to Ugandans who want to travel to the country to work as maids. 
The halt of the exercise that started on April 19 is said to be temporary and will affect the travel of more than 20,000 maids and income of several local companies dealing in labour export. 

According to local media outlets in Saudi Arabia, the visa suspension has been attributed to a technical glitch in the electronic visa system and it is causing anger among families that had already paid to get maids.

According to Saudi Arabia’s official online platforms, the lifting of the ban on international travels is expected to end on May 17.
Mr Ronnie Mukundane, the spokesperson of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), yesterday said: “For the last two weeks, maids haven’t been given visas at the Saudi Arabia Embassy. However, they notified us that they were facing technical problems. It will, of course, affect us and the maid.”

In April this year, Saudi Arabia banned travel or transit from 20 countries including the United Arab Emirates for fear of the spread of coronavirus.   
The halt of issuance visas will have a negative effect on Uganda’s forex exchange earnings since around 165,000 Ugandans working in the Middle East contribute $650m (Shs3.7 trillion) yearly to the economy, according to UAERA.   
Most of them work in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Efforts to reach officials from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia for a comment were futile by press time.