x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Clampdown on child sex trafficking

UAE law-enforcement officers spoke of their efforts to stop human trafficking.

ABU DHABI // Authorities yesterday highlighted their efforts to prevent child sex trafficking.

It follows the arrest of three men earlier this year on suspicion of forcing two girls into prostitution.

The case of the South Asian youths, age 13 and 14, was discussed on the final day of an anti-trafficking workshop in the capital.

"This was the first time underage girls had been brought to the country on tourist visas for the purpose of sex trafficking," said Maj Dr Rashed Al Nuaimi, an officer at the human rights department of the Ministry of the Interior.

"One of the girls had tried to cut her wrists to refuse work," he said, after showing pictures of the girl with slashed wrists to police and immigration officers who had gathered from across the region for the three-day UN training event.

Dr Al Nuaimi said the men, who were from the same country as the alleged victims, had claimed the girls were family members. The case is in the Sharjah Courts.

"They were arrested while leaving the country after immigration officials got suspicious. The girls are now in a shelter. They will stay here until the case is finished," said Dr Al Nuaimi. He added that it was important for law enforcement officers to be able to identify victims.

Government officers from legal and interior ministries joined human rights bodies from the Middle East and North Africa at the Rocco Forte Hotel for anti-trafficking workshops organised by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ministry of Interior.

Experts called for greater international coordination to fight human trafficking.

"There are no Emirati victims and none of the criminals are Emiratis," said Lt Col Ahmed Al Zaabi, the head of international coordination at the interior ministry.

"Human trafficking is an international crime, which is why it is important to have international agreements to stop it. We have a strategy to resolve it from the roots," he said.

The country's annual trafficking report for 2010 found that "traffickers and victims often originate from the same country, making it more difficult for authorities in the UAE to uncover such crimes".

This challenge, the report said, was being overcome through bilateral agreements.

About 58 trafficking cases, including forced labour, labour exploitation and the sale of children, and 152 victims were recorded last year. But a Lebanese government representative said the region lacked uniform anti-trafficking laws.

"For proper coordination, we must have similar national legislation," said Lt Col Moussa Karnib, an officer with the directorate general of internal security in Beirut.

"Countries must amend national laws after they ratify the UN convention ... trafficking is an organised crime and knows no border," he said, adding that discrepancies in laws made it hard to make arrests.

Another expert said law enforcement officers need more training.

"There is a need for capacity building for police, law enforcers and social workers in shelters," said Dr Mohanad Al Dweikat, the head of the anti-trafficking unit in Jordan.

He added that specialised training on providing "psycho-social support" for victims was necessary.

As part of the training, officials were divided into groups and given different case studies to examine.

They included people who had sold their organs, women forced into prostitution, people smuggling and domestic servitude.

The case studies helped illustrate the different types of trafficking, said a foreign ministry official.

"Trafficking is not just about sex trafficking but also includes organ trade," said Mubarak Al Hammadi, the diplomatic attache at the ministry's human rights department.

"Before I knew the laws, but now I understand how criminals work and how people are trafficked," he added.