x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arab Spring could benefit human traffickers, say rights advocates

Rights advocates fear that human traffickers could be taking advantage of the Arab Spring by luring women from conflict-ridden countries.

DUBAI // Rights advocates fear that human traffickers could be taking advantage of the Arab Spring, by luring women from the conflict-ridden countries with false promises of a better future.

"Women have to be careful, the criminals are skilled at taking advantage of instabilities and vulnerable situations," warned Mohammed Hussein Al Hammadi, the secretary-general of the Emirates Human Rights Association (HRA), yesterday.

Without specifying nationalities, Mr Al Hammadi said three Arab women had approached the association at the end of last year, saying they had been tricked into coming to the UAE with promises of good jobs.

"They were lied to, they came here and found themselves victims of human trafficking," said Mr Al Hammadi, who is also a member of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

"We try our best to help the victims. We give them legal help for free, and cooperate with all the different sides, police, government and non-government," said Mr Al Hammadi. "Human trafficking is a form of slavery. The victims are robbed of their basic human rights to live freely."

He was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the HRA, titled "Together We Stand As One for a Future Free of Human Trafficking".

The seminar heard that poverty and debts were causing an increase in human trafficking internationally. There are an estimated 27 million victims worldwide.

"Between 40 to 50 per cent of the victims are children, and many of them from Asia," said Mr Al Hammadi.

One of the points stressed by Mr Al Hammadi and other experts attending the conference was that there were "no organised mafia or gangs" of human trafficking in the UAE, only individual cases.

Mr Al Hammadi said efforts to clamp down on human trafficking were shown in official figures. There were 10 recorded cases in 2007, 20 in 2008, 43 in 2009, 56 in 2010 and 58 last year.

"One of the biggest difficulties we encounter is from the victims themselves," said Ahmed Murad Ahmed, the head of the human trafficking team at Dubai's public prosecution, who spoke at the seminar.

"We have to explain to them that they are the victim, not the criminals, and they have laws and many rights to protect them."

rghazal@thenational.ae