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UAE’s Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives

Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the pioneer in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to take diversified but integrated policies to curb increasing menace of human trafficking. UAE has already promulgated various legislations to make its soil free from any kind of human trafficking which is indeed an inhumane practice.
Right from the beginning, the UAE’s government has been rigorously participating in the global efforts to combat human trafficking.

It has been working closely with international and regional law enforcement officials/organizations to detain and punish violators of human trafficking laws. The UAE being the icon of humanity, compassion and respect of ethnic diversity is also deeply concerned about the victims of this crime and their physical and emotional well-being, and is establishing appropriate mechanisms to support and assist victims in need.

The UAE has been aggressively implementing a four-part anti-trafficking plan, designed to prevent the crime, enforce the law and provide necessary support to victims.

The Mother of UAE H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak always affirms the role of the UAE in carrying out its humanitarian responsibilities to the victims of human trafficking. The UAE have named the persons with disabilities as persons with determination.

H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), which is the Supervisory Body of the Ewaa Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking, has donated for a number of male victims of people of determination of human trafficking, who have been accommodated in the shelters and have been authorised by the competent court to have their case heard for the possibility of them returning home after judgment.
Sheikha Fatima, Mother of the Nation always supported them to lead a new life as part of her noble humanitarian role in the country and abroad. The Ewaa Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking praised the donation of Sheikha Fatima, which will have the best impact on the victims by easing their suffering and help them go back to their countries and start a better life. The shelters also stressed that this is not new to Sheikha Fatima as she has always supported victims of human trafficking to help them overcome their situation and meet their basic requirements of life, including the ownership of small projects, which they expressed would assist them to meet the needs of their families.

Most recently, (February 2019) Guy Ryder, Director-General of International Labour Organisaion (ILO) has commended the UAE’s efforts in fighting human trafficking. Ryder said the ILO shares the UAE successes in fighting human trafficking and regulating labour market with other countries. “The UAE is a role model for making positive efforts in this respect. If we are not regulating employment procedures effectively, these people can be vulnerable,” he added. He underlined on the necessity of global cooperation in fighting human trafficking.

According to latest report (2018) the UAE has taken all possible measures to eliminate trafficking. The government has demonstrated increasing efforts compared to all the regional countries. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by enacting a new domestic worker law intended to expand legal protections to this vulnerable population and opening specialized centers run by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) to regulate domestic worker recruitment and safeguard the terms of employment.

In addition, it continued to generate anti-trafficking awareness country-wide and funded and implemented its national action plan to combat trafficking. Dr Gargash stressed the UAE will continue to prove its determination and acknowledge where it needs to improve. There has been decrease in number of human traffickers arrested in 2017, compared to 106 arrests made in 2016 in connection with 25 cases involving 34 victims.
Dr Gargash added that UAE will continue to cooperate with all appropriate regional and international law enforcement officials to apprehend, prosecute and punish those violating the UAE’s human trafficking law and those attempting to use the country as a channel to violate anti-trafficking laws of other countries.

He said that the UAE has launched an official campaign to contain this crime through the issuance of Federal Law No. (51) of 2006, amended in 2015 to provide greater guarantees for victims of human trafficking.
“The UAE will strive to focus its energies and potential on training its officials in the field of combating human trafficking, as well as improving partnership between the public and private sectors. It will also enhance cooperation with other international partners to improve coordination and learn from their best practices,” Dr Gargash said.

Dr Gargash added that UAE emphasises its commitment to combating all activities of human trafficking, given that it is a crime against humanity and because it represents a threat to the values of our and other societies. Fighting against such crime must be a common goal for all the governments of the world.

Dr Gargash reiterated the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking is working hard on every element in its ‘5 Ps’ strategy Prevention, Prosecution, Punishment, Protection and Promotion (of international cooperation).

The formation of the Anti-Human Trafficking Panel, will coordinate action with authorities, care for victims and update legislation, in the the Labour of Ministry, added.

On its part, the UAE government adopted a new federal law providing strict enforcement provisions and penalties for convicted traffickers in November 2006. Subsequently, the UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking was formed. The committee coordinated anti-trafficking efforts at all levels in the seven Emirates of the Federation. The United Nations forum appreciated the UAE is “the first government in the Gulf to enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law.”

The UAE’s commitments are in accordance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, the UAE ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, in 2008.

The UAE is taking all possible measures to increase law enforcement capacity and awareness. Steps include training and workshops for police officers and public prosecutors and developing mechanisms to monitor and track human rights abuses. In addition, the UAE has held several training sessions with various law enforcement departments and ministries, focusing on the prevention of human trafficking, security and the enforcement of laws. Moreover, the UAE courts also accountability mechanism. There were six convictions in 2008, compared to five in 2007. In 2007, jail terms for those convictions ranged from three to 10 years, while in 2008, two people received life sentences for their crimes.

Furthermore, new visa regime aimed at curbing illegal recruitment was announced in July 2008. In November 2008, Abu Dhabi Police discovered and obstructed an attempt by an international organized crime ring to traffic persons to Europe via the UAE’s airports.

Police are tracking tourist companies that illegally bring women into the country. The licenses of companies caught carrying out illegal activities are being cancelled. At least two nightclubs exploiting women were shut down in 2007, and several others are under surveillance. The number of legal cases prosecuted in the UAE involving prostitution rose by 30 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Recent improvements in labor standards and regulations will have a positive impact on decreasing the scale of human trafficking. Steps include electronic payments to workers, standards for housing, a standard contract for domestic workers and bilateral agreements with supplier countries.

UAE Ambassador H.E. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al Zaabi, to Pakistan, while addressing to symposium titled “Standing together to support victims of Human Trafficking shared that Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates are discussing an agreement to combat human trafficking which will be carried forward by Pakistan’s human rights ministry and UAE’s official Ewaa Shelters program. The UAE is seeking to collaborate with Pakistan against human trafficking and announced its government’s support for its victims. Both countries are going to ink a memorandum of understanding.
There are a lot of international and human rights pressures on Pakistan as well as the UAE,” Kiani said. “They have done a good job to meet those expectations. They are more focused and we have to look after our people as well.”

During his keynote address at the symposium, Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Jarman, the deputy head of the UAE’s national committee to combat human trafficking, said the UAE was committed to combating human trafficking. He said the country had taken strict measures toward the prevention of trade in people and to prosecute traffickers by working with international organizations and several countries.

In the recent past, the UAE pledged $100,000 financial support to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The UAE welcomed the adoption of the declaration on the implementation of the global plan of action to combat trafficking in persons, and pledged that it will continue collaborating with the international community in exchanging resources and statistics to develop best practices and expertise in this regard.

The UAE expressed its support for the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, emphasising the importance and effectiveness of the endeavour in addressing the global issue. The UAE recalled its commitments to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime in 2007, Palermo Protocol in 2008, and the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons at the United Nations.

The UAE emphasized that trafficking in persons is a blatant violation of human rights, and it disregards human, religious, and cultural values. The UAE also highlighted the domestic initiatives and legal frameworks used in addressing the issue of combating trafficking in persons. As a nation which receives a significant number of temporary workers of different nationalities each year, the UAE is committed to combating this crime and countering criminal groups that perpetrate such activity.

In 2006, the UAE started a comprehensive anti-trafficking campaign and issued a federal law on combating trafficking in persons, which was amended in 2015 to provide greater guarantees for victims of human trafficking in line with the Palermo Protocol.

In 2008, the UAE established the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking Crimes consisting of representatives from government agencies concerned and civil society organisations to coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking crimes, strengthen strategic plans at various levels, and enable the authorities to enforce laws and implement preventive and deterrent measures.

The National Committee’s efforts have led to the adoption of the national strategy to counter trafficking focused on: prevention and prohibition, prosecution and punishment, protection and support of victims of human trafficking, and the promotion of international cooperation, all in line with the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

UAE started a diploma program on anti-trafficking to address the crime of human trafficking using a scientific approach, the role of national law enforcement agencies, as well as rehabilitation resources for victims of trafficking and facilitation of their residency or resettlement while ensuring their safety and security.

“The UAE has become regional leader and vocal global supporter to the Global UN Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and several global initiatives to combat trafficking in persons. The UAE  endeavours to strengthen its bilateral and multilateral cooperation with member states and inter-governmental organisations in dealing with human rights issues, employment, migration, crime, and drugs.

UAE had also developed an understanding with nations in Asia most affected by human trafficking and could share its experience and expertise with Pakistan to help improve identification and prevention.

The UAE has also developed charitable and social networks to provide support for victims of trafficking. Dubai’s Foundation for the Protection of Women and Children provides social services for victims, including counseling, in-house schooling, and recreation facilities. Between 2007 and 2008, the foundation supported 115 women and children, including 43 suspected victims of trafficking. Working with organizations such as the International Organization for Migration, some women have been repatriated to their home countries.

The UAE Red Crescent Authority, the Shelter for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi was opened in 2008. The Red Crescent, part of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is supervising shelters across the UAE for women and children. The Social Support Center of the Abu Dhabi Police and the Human Rights Care Department of Dubai Police are also taking all possible steps to help the victims. For further strengthening of its persuasions against human trafficking the UAE has signed agreements with several labor-exporting countries to regulate the flow of the workforce. In order to deny unscrupulous private recruitment agencies from cheating and trafficking workers, all labor contract transactions will be processed by labor ministries or offices in the supplying countries.

Since 2005, the UAE has worked closely with UNICEF on the repatriation of several hundred young children who once worked as camel jockeys in the UAE. The UAE government implemented a law banning camel jockeys under the age of 18 and authorized strict penalties of fines and up to three years in jail for breaches of the act.

By September 2006 more than 1,000 underage jockeys had been successfully repatriated to their home countries, where they were provided with social services, education, health care and compensation. In December 2006 the UAE government set aside more than $9 million for a second phase of the UNICEF program, which provided compensation for anyone who had ever worked as an underage camel jockey in the UAE. As a follow-up measure, the UAE committed $8 million for the establishment of monitoring mechanisms to prevent children formerly involved in camel racing from re-entering hazardous or exploitative labor.

UNICEF officials have publicly praised the UAE camel jockey repatriation program and held it up as a model for other countries to follow.
The UAE established stringent contract standards for domestic workers, which became effective in April 2007. These standards govern working conditions, vacation, air tickets, medical care and salary, ensuring that the labor rights of domestic workers are standardized and protected across the UAE. Government agencies are required to enforce the new contract when issuing new work visas, ensuring that the standards are upheld in all individual agreements.

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