ABU DHABI // The Ewa'a Shelters for Women and Children, which has been operating from rented space since opening in 2008, will soon move to new premises donated by Sheikha Fatima, the wife of the founding President, Sheikh Zayed.
Maitha Ghanim Al Mazrui, coordinator and follow-up officer at the shelter (ESWC) in Abu Dhabi, said she appreciated the generosity of Sheikha Fatima, known as the Mother of the UAE, towards it. The shelter provides a safe place for women and children, and victims of human trafficking.
"We are not sure when the construction work will start as we are still studying different aspects of the projects and hopefully we start soon," Ms Al Mazrui said.
The land donated to the centre is sufficient to construct a better facility, including space for vocational and rehabilitation activities, Ms Al Mazrui added.
The centre housed 23 victims of human trafficking this year.
Sheikha Fatima also donated Dh5.1 million to the centre in 2011, according to Wam, the state news agency.
The number of cases over past years is down; there were 70 victims in 2009, 38 in 2010 and 49 last year. Shelter is provided from one to six months. Most of the victims prefer to return home as soon as possible.
"We got some cases where victims travelled back home and then again returned to the Emirates and started working in another kind of work," Ms Al Mazrui said.
The organisation has two other shelters, one in Sharjah and another in Ras Al Khaimah. Women arrive at the sites by recommendation from police, churches and embassies.
Visitors must undergo a medical test at Seha after arriving at the shelter, because most do not have any identification papers and regular doctors will not see undocumented patients.
The women are also undergo psychological exams to determine what level of trauma they experienced.
"There is a standard story which happens to most of the girls where traffickers are out of the country," Ms Al Mazrui said. "They know where to find these illiterate and poor girls. They ensure them a very good job.
"Once they are here all their identification papers are taken from them and are locked up in a flat or villa and they are forced to work in a sex industry."
The Abu Dhabi centre can currently accommodate 60 people; RAK and Sharjah can accommodate 35 each.
"The main aim is to raise awareness of human trafficking among residents. There are people who are forced into prostitution and this makes a big percentage of women," Ms Al Mazrui said. "We are in process to sign an MoU with the hotel industry to provide them training with a certificate so that when they go back to their countries they can find jobs."
The shelters provide medical and psychological exams, rehabilitation, vocational training help with police and court proceedings. At the end of the process, a victim is exempt from any charges by the Ministry of Interior.
According to Ewa'a's 2011 records, 25.6 per cent of victims were from Asian countries, 18.6 per cent from Eastern Europe, 18.6 per cent from the Gulf and 7 per cent from African countries.
Some 161 victims returned home at the end of 2011, thanks to efforts made by the shelters.
"There were some cases where we found jobs for the victims," Ms Al Mazrui said.
She urged the community to report trafficking suspicions to the centre, and requested that people make donations as well. Interested parties can call the centre at 800 7283 or 800SAVE.