Undercover as a slave Part 4: Journalist taken to slave market

Undercover as a slave Part 4: Journalist taken to slave market


A Sunday Vision journalist got in touch with traffickers who smuggled her to Dubai on promises of a high paying job. She ended up in an agent’s holding cell, from where she was taken to a slave market. 

I thank God that I was able to do this story and return to Uganda alive. Once I got clearance from New Vision, I volunteered to be trafficked into Dubai, penetrating the security of Entebbe Airport with irregularly acquired visa, only to end up in an agent’s prison cell.

Her name was Sara. She made it clear that to regain our freedom, we had to be sold off to employers or refund the money she used to ‘buy’ us — the money she paid for our visas and tickets. She sells a few online, the rest of us have to wait for the slave market.

Taken for sale

By the time I am taken to the slave market, I am told everything that happens there. Yet when the day comes, on January 28, it is still shocking to me. It is degrading, inhuman and cruel. I will never forget that day. It is a day I lost faith in humanity. For the sake of money, there is nothing that a human being cannot do to a fellow human being.

Sara again briefs us on how we are to behave at the market, which she calls office. She says Arabs prefer maids with experience. So, those who can, should claim they have been housemaids before.

She explains that those who have less than two years of working experience in Dubai, will be earning 8,000 dirhams (about sh800,000) and those with experience, 1,000 dirhams (about sh1m). She also says we should say we have children even if we did not have because Arabs want mothers because they imagine they respect and want to protect children. 

The office is a big market place for housemaids. It is made up of two markets, separated by an artificial green carpet with games for children of families who come to buy workers. One market is labelled Al Wadad Labour Recruitment and the other, Qortaj Labour Recruitment. The markets are close to each other in the municipality of Ajman, opposite Ajman Post Office after Sharjah on the way from the airport. 

Each of us is dressed in long dresses because Sara says our bums must be hidden. She says Arabs are insecure about employing a maid with a big butt and are protective of their husbands.

We covered our heads the Islamic way and carried our luggage in case we are bought. We leave them in a small store and sit on a raised platform behind glasses. In front, is a counter where our agent Sara, sits waiting for buyers. But, we were told, she has brokers outside the building who keep calling out to potential buyers and bringing them to our stall, the way salons are aggressively marketed at Gazaland in Kampala.

Sara has many more maids than the ones at her home. The different groups meet at the market. She separates us into three groups according to our origins; Africans, Filipinos and Indians. Many clients come with specific nationalities they want, only a few do not mind.

Al Wadad, Qortaj human markets

The markets cover about six acres. There were more than 15 agents at Al Wadad, but Al Qortaj had about 20. Each has a horde of humans on sale, but I only see Africans and Asians on sale. Africans are from Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia. Asians are from Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, and Indonesia.

Read more at newvision.co.ug
Photo: newvision.co.ug

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