x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Shelter for male victims of human trafficking set to open

A shelter for male victims of human trafficking is set to open in Abu Dhabi.

Sara Shuhail, director of Ewa'a, says the shelter for men will encourage victims to get help.
Sara Shuhail, director of Ewa'a, says the shelter for men will encourage victims to get help.

The first shelter for male victims of human trafficking is to open in Abu Dhabi.

Ewa'a shelters, which has been aiding women and child victims of human trafficking since 2008, is awaiting approval to begin working on a shelter for men.

"We are in the final stages of approvals from the highest authorities. Once we get that, we will begin looking for a suitable location," said Sara Shuhail, director of Ewa'a.

Ms Shuhail said that not having a shelter for men has been one of the main criticisms the UAE receives from international bodies.

"We have yet to receive any cases of male victims but this is just a precautionary measure and, hopefully, with this new shelter it will encourage the victims to step forward," she said.

Ewa'a was set up by the UAE Red Crescent Authority in cooperation with the UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking. It operates shelters in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.

"Human trafficking is not an easy problem to solve, not just here but globally," Ms Shuhail said. "That said, we don't want to open new shelters, we want to fix this problem so that we can close these shelters, that's our goal."

The shelters provide everything from psychological and medical care to support, through the process of prosecuting traffickers.

Rehabilitation for victims includes activities such as handicrafts, swimming and drawing, to try to restore a sense of normality.

"The most difficult part of what we do is seeing the effects of this on children. It is very difficult to heal the psychological scars of human trafficking on children, many of whom enter the country on forged papers," Ms Shuhail said.

The shelters also provide vocational training for victims so they can find a source of income when they return home.

"We have had cases where the victim's country would not have been a safe place for them to return to. In such cases we have worked with international bodies to relocate them to countries willing to provide them citizenship and a chance at a normal life."

Mohammed Al Hammadi, deputy chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association, said authorities were coming across more cases of human trafficking.

"Every year we are seeing an increase in the cases of human trafficking," he said. "This is not to say that human trafficking is getting worse here, it shows that our methods of detection and enforcement of the laws are improving."

The community's perception of the victims of human trafficking has also changed over the past few years.

"People now understand that these people are victims not accomplices or criminals," Mr Al Hammadi said.

"I just want to ask everyone to try to help as much as you can, don't just look away," added Ms Shuhail.