x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Police urge UAE women to be vigilant against human trafficking

Dubai Police have focused their efforts on educating women about human trafficking as they are more likely to encounter possible victims.

DUBAI // Women are being urged to educate themselves about human trafficking because they are best placed to identify possible victims, police say.

Reported cases of human trafficking rose from 10 in 2007 to 43 last year, says Col Mohammed Al Shehhi, a member of the Ministry of Interior's Committee for the Prevention of Human Trafficking Crimes.

Col Al Shehhi and his colleagues were speaking at a seminar on the topic held yesterday at the Dubai Women's College in honour of World Human Rights Day, which is today.

"We have to be open about there being a problem if we are to have any chance of solving it," he said. "Yes, we do have problems with human trafficking in the UAE - let's be realistic."

Lt Col Sultan Abdul Hamid Al Jamal, the head of the Human Trafficking Crimes Monitoring Centre at Dubai Police, told the gathering of female students how they could help.

"We've noticed recently that cases of human trafficking have been taking place in beauty salons, where owners would force them to work and deny them wages, or even force them into prostitution," he said.

"In such cases, you women can be a link between the police and saving the lives of these victims."

Lt Col Al Jamal added that women are also more likely to be successful in communicating and gaining the trust of victims, as many endured physical and psychological torture making them too scared to ask for help.

"We have seen cases of fathers selling their daughters, and husbands abusing their wives," he said. "You should be aware of these cases so that you can spot them should you ever come across one."

Every community member should be able to identify signs of abuse, said Dr Adel Ibrahim Maged, specialist consultant for the Arab League in battling human trafficking.

"Be they local or expat, they should have the knowledge to be able to pick up the basic signs of abuse and human trafficking," Dr Maged said.

"It is a fundamental civic duty for people to act when they suspect or identify a victim of human trafficking."

Among signs that suggest something more sinister is at play are workers who have no contact with friends or family, no access to a bank account or cash, and no access to their identification documents including passports.

The experts told the women to keep a lookout for bosses who use verbal abuse to control staff and have locks and fences to confine workers.

They heard an employer could be using threats to subdue their workers if they are made to put in excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off, or have unusual work restrictions.

Finally, the women were told, look for unexplained injuries or signs of untreated illness.

malkhan@thenational.ae