As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Uganda, and traffickers exploit victims from Uganda abroad. Ugandan children as young as 7 years old are exploited in forced labor in agriculture, fishing, forestry, cattle herding, mining, stone quarrying, brick making, carpentry, steel manufacturing, street vending, bars, restaurants, gold mining, and domestic service. Traffickers exploit girls and boys in commercial sex. Recruiters target girls and women aged 13-24 for domestic sex trafficking, especially near sports tournaments and road construction projects. An international organization estimates there are between 7,000 to 12,000 children exploited in sex trafficking in Uganda. An international organization and NGO reported that most internal trafficking victims are Ugandans, many of whom are from the northeastern region, specifically Karamojong children whom traffickers exploit in forced begging and commercial sex in brothels. In February 2020, the government and civil society reported children from Karamoja were sold at markets in the eastern region for 20,000-50,000 UGX ($5.46-$13.70); traffickers exploited them in forced labor as beggars, domestic workers, and in commercial sex. An NGO reported local authorities’ intervention to remove internally trafficked children from the streets caused children to move to work as vendors in markets where they are vulnerable to exploitation. Researchers reported there are approximately 3,800 children living on the streets of Kampala and three other major towns and an additional 11,700 children working on the streets but sleeping elsewhere. Reportedly, traffickers, called “elders,” force some street children to beg and exploit the girls in commercial sex. The “elders” are a well-organized network of traffickers and NGOs have alleged complicit officials allow the practice to continue. A local organization reported parents in the Acholi subregion in northern Uganda, who failed to pay their debts were required to have their children work on farms until the debt was paid. In 2018, an NGO alleged that traffickers recruited children from Napak district, northeastern Uganda, and then sold them as domestic workers for 20,000 UGX ($5.46). Media reported that some parents sell their children to middlemen who resell the children for approximately 30,000 UGX ($8.20). In 2018, an international organization reported separating four Ugandan children from armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Authorities subjected some prisoners in pre-trial detention to forced labor.
Traffickers compel some children from the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan into forced agricultural labor and sex trafficking in Uganda. In 2017, individuals from Rwanda and Somalia, including a Somali refugee from Nakivale Refugee Settlement, were victims of internal trafficking. South Sudanese children in refugee settlements in northern Uganda are at risk of trafficking. In 2018, there were several media reports of alleged complicity of police officers in the sex trafficking of child and female refugees.
Young women remained the most at risk for transnational trafficking, usually seeking employment as domestic workers in the Middle East; at times traffickers fraudulently recruited Ugandan women for employment and then exploited them in sex trafficking. Traffickers subject Ugandans to forced labor and sex trafficking in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Malaysia, Thailand, Bahrain, Jordan, China, and Kenya; India has increasingly become a destination for sex trafficking. In 2019, media reported traffickers sold girls from markets in Katakwi district and transported the girls to Nairobi where they were exploited as domestic workers; some of the girls worked for Somali immigrants in Nairobi and were further transported to Somalia where they were exploited by al-Shabaab terrorist group. In 2018, media and government officials alleged Ugandan girls were being sold in a “slave market” in the UAE. Extremely high recruitment fees sometimes led to situations of debt bondage. To circumvent the government ban on migrant work in Oman, some licensed and unlicensed agencies send Ugandans through Kenya and Tanzania. Official complicity may have hindered government oversight of labor recruitment agencies. COPTIP reported that traffickers appear to be increasingly organized and some may have formed regional trafficking networks. The government and an NGO reported an increase in victims with university degrees as traffickers target graduates with the promise of skilled jobs abroad. The government and NGOs reported cases involving victims that were recruited by licensed companies in which victims paid high administrative fees based on promised high-paid jobs abroad; however, upon arrival, they found themselves locked into contracts in low-paid domestic work. NGOs reported that traffickers are frequently relatives or friends of victims, or may pose as wealthy women or labor recruiters promising vulnerable Ugandans, frequently from rural areas, well-paid jobs abroad or in Uganda’s metropolitan areas. Reportedly, pastors, imams, and local leaders at churches and mosques in Uganda have also assisted in the recruitment of domestic workers abroad, mostly for Middle Eastern countries; these leaders encourage female domestic workers to take these jobs and in turn receive a fee per worker from recruiters. Some traffickers threatened to harm the victims’ family or confiscated travel documents.