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Ugandans heading to Middle East for jobs paying sh100,000 for COVID-19 certificates

Many have headed abroad, especially the Middle East only to return after claims of exploitation and slavery. Organisations to support survivors can benefit from up to $1million from the Survivor Leadership Fund.

Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Migrant workers are paying more than sh100,000 to acquire COVID-19 vaccination certificates through agents at labour export companies and data entrants at certain vaccination sites across the country.

Some of the migrant workers told our reporter that they paid to get vaccination certificates to travel to mainly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The three countries require incoming passengers to present either negative PCR COVID-19 test certificates or vaccination certificates for those who are fully vaccinated.

Some migrant workers who have failed to generate the vaccination certificates online say they had to pay money.

Beatrice Nabaggala, says that she tried to generate her digital certificate from the web portal in June in vain.

Two weeks to her flight to Dubai for work, Nabaggala says she had not yet accessed her vaccination certificate online. An agent at the labour export company facilitating her recruitment initially demanded 150,000 Shillings to help Nabaggala access the certificate. The amount was reduced to shillings 100,000 after negotiations.

Sandra Ankunda, from Rukungiri district, Molly Nantale, and Aminah Namale from Kayunga and Wakiso districts respectively say they also paid labour export companies to access their vaccination certificates.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Spokesperson at the Ministry of Health, condemns the act of extorting money from travelers.

He says all vaccinated persons are supposed to generate a vaccination certificate online, 14 days after receiving their second vaccine jab or one dose in the case of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Ainebyoona says those who fail to access their digital certificates should call the toll-free number provided on the web portal or visit the facilities where they were vaccinated because their data has not yet been captured in the system.

Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of the Uganda Association for External Recruitment Agencies-UAERA, said that he was not aware of the matter.

“If it is being done, it’s obviously illegal considering that COVID-19 certificates, first of all, are not for sale…we always advise the public that they must always get a receipt for any payment they make at any recruitment company. Without a receipt to confirm payment the claim is taken just as an allegation.”

Dr. Samuel Kigula, a medical doctor deployed at Port Health Entebbe Airport, says they detect close to 40 forged COVID-19 certificates daily down from over 150 forged certificates captured daily from April to May this year.

He noted that most of the travelers who present forged certificates are traders and migrant workers who say they paid agents to secure the certificates.

Kigula says Port Health authorities have written to the health ministry in the past over the matter and provided lists of facilities suspected of forging the certificates and that labour companies and their agents have been advised to take unvaccinated applicants for vaccination.

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