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Operation nets 1600 foreigners without proper documentation

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Dr. Josephine Ekwang Ali talks to suspects from China,India and Pakistan after conducting a joint field inspection with South African officials. FILE PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Statistics released by the Department of Inspection and Legal Services (DILS) in the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicate that 1,655 foreigners were arrested and interrogated between July and December 2023 on suspicion of illegally staying in the country.

Headed by Dr. Josephine Ekwang Ali, DILS conducted impromptu operations in various workplaces, including factories, warehouses, supermarkets, workshops, and ordinary shops, following reports from vigilant Ugandans regarding foreigners working illegally in the country.

Ekwang’s team apprehended every foreigner found without a valid passport, visa, work permit, student pass, or dependent pass. Out of the 1,655 arrested and probed foreigners, DILS discovered that 309 had illegally entered the country and have since been deported.

“We noticed that 23 were genuine asylum seekers who had just come into the country or had just applied to legalize their stay. We handed them to the Office of the Prime Minister since we are bound by international law not to send back people who have run away from their mother countries for genuine reasons,” reads the DILS report.

Eighty of the arrested foreigners have appealed against their arrest and removal from the country, and their cases are still being handled by higher authorities within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Sixty-two others, according to DILS, primarily foreign students, have regularized their stay in the country by acquiring a student pass or dependent pass.

Simon Peter Mundeyi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, stated that 853 foreigners arrested during the six-month operation against illegal visitors and workers have since been released after providing the required documents.

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“When you are a foreigner, you are supposed to move with your legal documents at all times. So, when DILS raided the workplaces where locals had provided intelligence about their illegal stay, our team did not find them with lawful documents. They were arrested but later released because they presented genuine documents regarding their stay in the country,” Mundeyi explained.

DILS operates under the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC), led by Maj. Gen. Appolo Kasiita Gowa. Some of the arrested foreigners were found to have been trafficked into the country, and investigations to identify the culprits are underway.

Commissioner in charge of Citizenship Control, Col. George Brian Kambare, has frequently ordered operations against traffickers, resulting in the arrest of many individuals primarily trafficking Ethiopian, Burundian, and Eritrean nationals into Uganda or using Entebbe Airport as a transit point to Asian destinations, particularly Beirut in Lebanon.

Mundeyi emphasized that operations against illegal foreigners are being intensified this year. He stated that last month alone, a significant number of individuals were arrested and are under investigation for various offenses. “DILS continues to conduct sensitization and operations. We urge the public to remain vigilant and act as whistleblowers. People should not reside or work here without the requisite immigration documents.”

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