x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Progress in battle against human trafficking as cases fall by 60%

Most of the victims are young women aged between 19 and 35 from the Middle East and South Asia who came in search of work as housemaids, receptionists or waitresses.

ABU DHABI // The number of human trafficking cases fell to 19 last year from 47 in 2012, a drop of 60 per cent.

There were convictions in 12 of the cases and seven are still going through the legal system. Some offenders were fined, and others were imprisoned for between one year and life.

Most cases were in Dubai, with others mainly in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman. There were 24 victims and 50 traffickers were arrested.

Most of the victims are young women aged between 19 and 35 from the Middle East and South Asia who came in search of work as housemaids, receptionists or waitresses.

A third of victims at one shelter in Dubai were threatened into being trafficked and most were either related to or were friends with the traffickers, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking reported on Tuesday.

Only 7 per cent of victims at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children had no previous knowledge of the trafficker.

“The Government recognises that the more informed it is about the victims of trafficking and the sources of trafficking, and the transit countries and methodologies practised by traffickers, the more it can do to prevent this crime,” said Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

“With effective action in place, the number of human trafficking cases in the UAE has come down significantly. The UAE has also ensured that while victims are rescued and rehabilitated, perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice,” said Dr Gargash, who is also also chairman of the committee.

Dr Abdul Rahim Al Awadhi, undersecretary at the ministry, said it was women who were mostly exploited. “Many women believe they are coming for a job – jobs they were promised and when the promise is not fulfilled, they are forced into other degrading jobs. They must resort to other jobs because they did not find a suitable one, sadly,” he said.

Eighty per cent of the crimes originated outside the UAE, said Dr Al Awadhi, “because most of these countries are known to have gangs and sects that exploit others”.

The UAE has made a sustained effort to confront the problem of trafficking, particularly over the past year, the report showed.

The strategy has been dubbed the five Ps – prevention, prosecution, punishment, protection and promotion.

Efforts under this strategy include establishing a fund to support victims, opening a new shelter in Abu Dhabi to help male victims, conducting a public awareness campaign at certain airport terminals in several languages and boosting cooperation with the countries of origin to tackle the crime at source.

The Dubai foundation, for example, provides free psychological care and support to victims of abuse, trafficking, and violence. It also provides health services, social services and legal assistance to the victims.

Another centre in Abu Dhabi, Ewaa, provides financial aid and rehabilitation.

These efforts will continue this year, the report said. The airport awareness programme will be extended to the Northern Emirates, workshops to educate the private sector about trafficking will be organised and companies will be told how to prevent trafficking when hiring workers.

“The numbers also suggest both growing awareness about human trafficking among the public and intensifying counter-measures adopted by various official agencies, ministries and non-government organisations involved in tackling this crime,” said Dr Gargash.

“It is indeed heartening that government agencies are becoming increasingly successful in disrupting the activities of several criminals and groups involved in human trafficking.”

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

With additional reporting from Wam