How 23 Ugandans trapped in Myanmar were repatriated

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Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport was Thursday May 23 filled with moments of joy and sighs of relief as a wholesome of nationals who had been held captive in Myanmar returned home.

The group, 23 in number were received by government officials after arriving aboard Ethiopian airlines at about 11:22am.

Mr Vincent Bagiire Waiswa, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the group but warned Ugandans to beware of fraudulent employment schemes abroad.

“The issue came to light in 2023 when reports surfaced about 23 Ugandans being held in Tachileik, Myanmar, after being lured with promises of high-paying jobs. They were subsequently forced into crypto-currency scams and smuggled across borders,” Mr Bagiire said.

He added, “The Government of Uganda, in collaboration with the Uganda high Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Office of the Prime Minister, initiated a series of diplomatic engagements with the Government of Myanmar, leading to an agreement to release the Ugandans.”

According to Mr Bagiire, following their release, the group were sheltered at the Thailand-Myanmar border, with assistance from the Thai government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“Thai authorities confirmed the victims’ status as trafficking survivors, enabling the repatriation process to commence,” he said.

Uganda’s Ambassador to Thailand Ms Betty Bigombe said they are making efforts to repatriate more Ugandans still stuck in Myanmar.

“There are many camps, one is called UK, the last one they were in was Mountain, they were electrocuted and badly beaten. We still have two Ugandans in UK and 12 or 13 in Mountain. We are not sure whether there are many others,” Ms Bigombe said.

Ms Bigombe said there is need to find a lasting solution for the increasing cases of human trafficking in South East Asia.

“There are more than 100,000 people from around the world mainly from poor developing countries that are targeted especially the youth because of unemployment,” she said.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission Mr Sanusi Tejan Savage said the returnees who include five women and 18 men received rehabilitation for one month before being repatriated back home, to be reunited with their families.

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