x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Casebook is closed on child jockey payouts

The federal Government has declared its child-jockey compensation file closed, stating that it had compensated all child jockeys in the UAE and reinstated them to their home countries.

ABU DHABI // The federal Government yesterday declared its child-jockey compensation file closed.

The special committee for the compensation and rehabilitation of the children said all foreign children used in UAE camel races had been compensated and reintegrated into their home countries.

The committee held its final meeting yesterday at the Rocco Forte Hotel in the capital.

The meeting took place in the presence of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Gulf Area representative Dr Ibrahim Al Zeik, foreign delegations and senior Ministry of Interior officials.

"The UAE has handled the critical issues of children's rights with great transparency and the eradication of the problem of camel-jockey children is evidence of that," Dr Al Zeik said.

"As soon as the UAE realised that there was a danger involved in children taking part in camel races, and that it constituted an abuse of their rights, it issued federal law No.15 of 2005 regulating participation in camel races and banning, in its first article, the participation of people under 18."

The ban on using jockeys under 18 was passed in 2002 and enforced from 2005, under decree from the President, Sheikh Khalifa. The country then began using robot jockeys.

The Government worked with Unicef to repatriate and compensate thousands of children involved in the sport. Most of them were under 10, brought in from countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and Mauritania. They were selected because of their light weight and small size.

"Unicef has offered technical assistance to the UAE, which has shown its serious commitment to eradicate this problem," Dr Al Zeik said.

"And so between 2005 and 2010, 1,100 camel children jockeys were repatriated to their native countries and their families, were compensated and reintegrated into society. Today, those children enjoy their right to play and go to school and stay with their families."

Lt Gen Saif Al Shafar, the under secretary of the Ministry of Interior, said: "The UAE has not spared an effort in bringing the [children jockey compensation] file to its conclusion in an honourable manner.

"The concrete and practical steps that have been taken to resolve the issue transparently and fairly were hailed by all the relevant international organisations."

Gen Al Shafar noted that Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, was the first to issue instructions barring children from jockeying.

Maj Gen Nasser Al Minhali, the head of the special committee for the compensation and rehabilitation of camel-jockey children, said the committee had completed its mission in a way that was "satisfactory to the children, their families and local communities".

Gen Al Minhali added that international law experts had helped to establish the criteria for compensation.