x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE shelter mulls support for male victims of human trafficking

Ewa'a Shelters for Women and Children wants to be ready to serve any adult men who might be victims of human trafficking in the UAE.

DUBAI // The country’s support network for victims of human trafficking is debating the idea of opening a shelter for men.

Ewa’a Shelters for Women and Children operates in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah for victims of human trafficking, such as those forced into prostitution.

So far the only male victims the shelters have received have been children, said Maitha Al Mazroui, development and follow-up manager for Ewa’a.

But Ewa’a wants to be ready to serve any adult men who need help, Ms Al Mazroui said.

“We heard many people ask, ‘Why don’t you have a place for men?’” she said. “If there is a need, we’ll open.”

The proposal is still in a preliminary stage and is being discussed by the Ewa’a board of directors, Ms Al Mazroui said.

“The decision has not been taken yet,” she said. “Many things need to be considered before opening a shelter.”

One concern is that “the need is too little”, she said. “That’s why it’s still under negotiation.”

The lack of a shelter for men was one of the issues highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, after she visited the UAE last year.

Ms Ezeilo wrote that the most common forms of trafficking for women and children were in the sex trade and domestic work.

The most common form for men, she said, was in the construction  industry.

She recommended the UAE make efforts to “protect and assist all victims of trafficking, including male victims”.

And Ms Ezeilo suggested that the country establish shelters for male victims of trafficking or labour exploitation, “in light of the prevalence of labour exploitation of men in the UAE.”

Ewa’a, however, only works with victims of human trafficking “who are sexually exploited”, Ms Al Mazroui said.

Male prostitution exists in the UAE, as shown in court cases. But it is unclear how such men arrive in the UAE and whether some of them were trafficked or coerced into sex work.

“We want to help, and if there is a need, why not?” Ms Al Mazroui said. “Even if it is one [victim], it’s worth helping.”

For now, the idea of opening a shelter for men must be considered and discussed by the board members.

“It will come, but when and how the decision will come needs time,” Ms Al Mazroui said.

Ewa’a has cared for nearly 200 women and children since it was founded in 2008.

The shelters provide protection, rehabilitation and legal services to clients, as well as help with repatriation.

vnereim@thenational.ae