A total of 154 Ugandans have been deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after protracted negotiations by the Ugandan embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson has revealed.
Mr Moses Kasujja told Daily Monitor that some of the deportees had committed offences and were serving jail sentences.
There are more than 30,000 Ugandans working and living in the UAE, minus those staying there illegally. UAE is one the key destinations for about 65,000 Ugandan workers exported to the Middle East that brought home $1.37b (about Shs5 trillion) last year.
The ministry’s revelations come after police in Dubai released a list of 38 Ugandans who were being held in Al Awiir Central jail, one of Dubai’s biggest prisons. Eleven of these are women while three are serving life sentences for drug trafficking.
However, Kampala socialite Sulaiman Kabangala Mbuga, aka SK Mbuga, who was reported to be in the same UAE prison for alleged fraud, is not on the list.
Sources said Mr Mbuga’s name is missing on the list because he is yet to be sentenced. However, the claim could not be independently verified.
“We know we have Ugandans in jail in UAE but our embassy has negotiated with the arresting government and have given us a grace period stretching from September 1 to October 30 as a waiver to identify Ugandans in jail, stand surety for them and get them deported,” Mr Kasujja said.
He revealed that those brought home were declared undesirable citizens in the UAE. Deportations started on September 1 and are still ongoing until end of month.
The exercise has affected Ugandans who have been in prison on minor cases such as overstay, working on visitors’ visas or working with non-sponsors. Mr Kasujja said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Uganda embassy in UAE were still negotiating with the host government to extend the amnesty to Ugandans charged with big crimes such as drug trafficking.
“When UAE agrees, they can be brought home and be tried in Uganda, sentenced and imprisoned here,” he said but did not give figures of Ugandans in UAE jails on capital offences.
He advised Ugandans in the diaspora who get into trouble with the law to contact Uganda’s missions abroad or contact the ministry’s website for assistance.
Some of the 38 Ugandans on the deportation list had been charged with drug trafficking and sentenced to life imprisonment. Though the other persons are being held, the list does not stipulate how long they will stay in jail. One Ugandan was jailed for kidnapping while four were jailed for forgery.
The detailed list as per September 18 also had some Ugandans arrested for unlawful stay, working with a non-sponsor and unlawful return after previous deportation.
One Ugandan was charged with unjustified refusal to settle a debt and another for destroying property. Two were charged with alcohol abuse while another was indicted for fraud and seizure of someone’s money. Another was held for embezzlement and one for theft.
A source in Dubai said Ugandans travelling to the country must be careful because minor offences in Uganda constitute big crimes there.