x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE funds UN probe into global human trafficking

UN slavery report finds that 40 per cent of the more than 150 countries studied have never convicted a single trafficking suspect.

NEW YORK // The UAE's efforts to eradicate human trafficking received a boost with publication of a UN report into the sickening modern-day slave trade that condemns men, women and children to lives of misery. The Global Report on Trafficking Persons, released on Thursday by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, was funded through a private US$15 million (Dh55m) donation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. But it shows the rest of the world has a long way to go to stamp out the evil trade.

Antonio Maria Costa, the UN office's director, said the "generous grant" financed the "first global report on modern slavery", which contains shocking revelations about the hidden vice menace. Mr Costa, the UN's chief crime fighter, said a crucial lack of data continued to hamper progress on tackling the scourge, with countries including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and China refusing to share information.

"Some countries, including a few very big ones, do not even inform us about the problem in their midst. Either they are too disorganised to collect the information, or they are unwilling to share it - perhaps out of embarrassment," he said. One of the worst shocks in the report, which covers 155 countries, was the revelation that 40 per cent of them had not yet convicted a single trafficker. That meant criminals could operate almost with impunity across much of the globe, Mr Costa said.

"Are we making progress? I wish we were. Out of each 100 cases, one victim is rescued," Mr Costa said. The 292-page report shows the UAE, Bahrain and Oman are the only Gulf nations with a comprehensive legal framework to prosecute people traffickers. It says 150 officers are assigned to tackle trafficking in the UAE - where South Asian men make up more than half the convicted offenders. Most victims are women from Uzbekistan, Moldavia and South Asia who have been forced into sexual exploitation.

There were 26 convictions in the UAE in 2005-06, the report says, although this month has already seen four men jailed for trafficking and running a Deira brothel, and three more men arrested for a similar operation in Al Muraqabat. Dr Anwar Gargash, head of the national committee to combat human trafficking, urged police and officials this month to use new legislation more effectively against vice gangs.

Although men are behind most human trafficking in the country, women are responsible for the majority of offences in almost a third of the nations in the UN survey. They accounted for more than 60 per cent of the convictions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. "Women commit crimes against women, and in many cases the victims become the perpetrators," said Mr Costa. "They become the matrons of the business and they make money. It's like a drug addiction."

The report was based largely on human trafficking convictions reported to the UN between Sept 2007 and July last year. About 22,500 victims were rescued during that time. Four out of every five cases involved sexual exploitation; most of the rest involved forced labour. Mr Costa's agency gave no overall figures for how many millions of people might be affected. Conviction rates for trafficking rarely exceeded 1.5 per 100,000 people, he said, adding that it was difficult to get nations to address human trafficking because it was "at the crossroads" of complex issues such as human migration and prostitution.

The report's release coincided with the appointment of Mira Sorvino, the Oscar-winning actress, as a goodwill ambassador to help Mr Costa's office fight trafficking. jreinl@thenational.ae