Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 07:45 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Arab Emirates

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 3 June 2005
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Arab Emirates, 3 June 2005, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

United Arab Emirates (Tier 3)

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is a destination country for women trafficked primarily from South, Southeast, and East Asia, the former Soviet Union, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, and East Africa, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. A far smaller number of men, women, and teenage children were trafficked to the U.A.E. to work as forced laborers. Some South Asian and East African boys were trafficked into the country and forced to work as camel jockeys. Some were sold by their parents to traffickers, and others were brought into the U.A.E. by their parents. A large number of foreign women were lured into the U.A.E. under false pretenses and subsequently forced into sexual servitude, primarily by criminals of their own countries. Personal observations by U.S. Government officials and video and photographic evidence indicated the continued use of trafficked children as camel jockeys. There were instances of child camel jockey victims who were reportedly starved to make them light, abused physically and sexually, denied education and health care, and subjected to harsh living and working conditions. Some boys as young as 6 months old were reportedly kidnapped or sold to traffickers and raised to become camel jockeys. Some were injured seriously during races and training sessions, and one child died after being trampled by the camel he was riding. Some victims trafficked for labor exploitation endured harsh living and working conditions and were subjected to debt bondage, passport withholding, and physical and sexual abuse.

The U.A.E. Government does not collect statistics on persons trafficked into the country, making it difficult to assess its efforts to combat the problem. Widely varying reports, mostly from NGOs, international organizations, and source countries, estimated the number of trafficking victims in the U.A.E. to be from a few thousand to tens of thousands. Regarding foreign child camel jockeys, the U.A.E. Government estimated there were from 1,200 to 2,700 such children in the U.A.E., while a respected Pakistani human rights NGO active in the U.A.E. estimated 5,000 to 6,000. The U.A.E. Government has taken several steps that may lead to potentially positive outcomes, such as requiring children from source countries to have their own passports, and collaborating with UNICEF and source-country governments to develop a plan for documenting and safely repatriating all underage camel jockeys.

The Government of the U.A.E. does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite sustained engagement from the U.S. Government, NGOs, and international organizations over the last two years, the U.A.E. Government has failed to take significant action to address its trafficking problems and to protect victims. The U.A.E. Government needs to enact and enforce a comprehensive trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of trafficking and provides for protection of trafficking victims. The government should also institute systematic screening measures to identify trafficking victims among the thousands of foreign women arrested and deported each year for involvement in prostitution. The government should take immediate steps to rescue and care for the many foreign children trafficked to the U.A.E. as camel jockeys, repatriating them through responsible channels if appropriate. The government should also take much stronger steps to investigate, prosecute, and convict those responsible for trafficking these children to the U.A.E.


During the reporting period, the U.A.E. made minimal efforts to prosecute traffickers. Despite the ongoing trafficking and exploitation of thousands of children as camel jockeys and women in sexual servitude, the government made insufficient efforts in 2004 to criminally prosecute and punish anyone behind these forms of trafficking. The U.A.E. Government announced in April 2005 that it would soon enact a new law banning underage camel jockeys. Currently, the U.A.E. does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. The government can use various laws under its criminal codes to prosecute trafficking-related crimes effectively, but there have been only a few such cases prosecuted. In 2004, U.A.E. officials declared that the 2002 Presidential Decree against the exploitation of children as camel jockeys was legally unenforceable – effectively asserting that the U.A.E. had no legal mechanism to address this serious crime. The U.A.E.'s new law, when enacted and implemented, is expected to enable enforcement of the Decree.

In 2004, according to an NGO, immigration authorities worked with source-country NGOs, embassies, and consulates to rescue and repatriate 400 trafficked former camel jockeys to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sudan. The government transferred the anti-trafficking portfolio from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Interior – a ministry with a law enforcement authority – and created a designated anti-child trafficking unit within the Ministry of Interior. In December 2004, the government opened a rehabilitation center for the care of rescued child camel jockeys, and from December 2004 to April 2005, rescued approximately 68 children and repatriated 43 of them to their countries of origin, primarily Pakistan. However, the number of rescued and repatriated children through these efforts is insignificant compared to the huge number (estimated in the thousands) openly exploited at camel racetracks throughout the country. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the government investigated, prosecuted, and punished anyone for trafficking, abusing, and exploiting children as camel jockeys.

The U.A.E. Government's efforts to prosecute crimes relating to trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation were equally disappointing. Despite a few arrests and prosecutions of those involved in such crimes, including travel and employment agencies that reportedly facilitate the trafficking of victims, U.A.E. law enforcement efforts during the year focused largely on the arrest, incarceration, and deportation of over 5,000 foreign women in prostitution, many of whom are likely trafficking victims. The police do not make concerted, proactive efforts to distinguish trafficking victims among women arrested for prostitution and illegal immigration; as a result, victims are punished with incarceration and deportation. Although the U.A.E. criminalized the withholding of employees' passports by employers, there is inconsistent enforcement of the law, and the practice continues to be widespread in both the private and public sectors. The government claims to have taken civil and administrative actions against hundred of employers who abused or failed to pay their domestic employees. The government does not keep data on trafficking and related investigations, arrests, and prosecutions.


The U.A.E. Government's efforts to provide protection and assistance to victims of trafficking were minimal during the reporting period. Its efforts to protect child camel jockeys were limited to the opening of one shelter in Abu Dhabi in December 2004 and the repatriation of approximately 443 rescued child camel jockeys. Given the estimated thousands of boys being openly exploited in the country, the total number rescued and repatriated so far is small. Following increased public attention to the camel jockey situation and rescue efforts by the government, an international NGO alleged that some camel owners are hiding a large number of child victims in the desert and in neighboring countries. However, there is no evidence the government has taken action to investigate and prevent this crime. The government is also working with the Governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan to establish U.A.E. Government-funded shelters in those countries to receive and care for rescued and repatriated children.

The government's efforts to protect and assist victims of trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation have also been minimal. U.A.E. police continue to arrest and punish trafficking victims along with others engaged in prostitution, unless the victims identify themselves as having been trafficked. The U.A.E.'s numerous foreign domestic and agricultural workers are excluded from protection under

U.A.E. labor laws and, as such, many are vulnerable to serious exploitation that constitutes involuntary servitude, a severe form of trafficking. The government does not have a shelter facility for foreign workers who are victims of involuntary servitude, but relies on housing provided by embassies, source-country NGOs, and concerned U.A.E. residents. The U.A.E. Government states it offers housing, work permits, counseling, medical care, and other necessary support for those labor victims who agree to testify against their traffickers. However, few victims reportedly benefited from these government-provided services. In 2004, the Dubai Police Human Rights Department reported assisting such victims in 18 trafficking cases. The Dubai Police also assigns Victim Assistant Coordinators to police stations to advise victims of their rights, encourage victims to testify, and provide other essential services to victims.


The U.A.E. slightly increased its trafficking prevention efforts over the past year, particularly efforts to prevent the trafficking of children to work as camel jockeys. Prevention measures reportedly included closer screening of visa applications by U.A.E. embassies in source countries, distributing informational material directly to newly arrived foreign workers, supplying brochures to source-country embassies and consulates to warn potential victims, conducting specific anti-trafficking training for police and various government personnel, and conducting training for immigration inspectors in document fraud detection methods.

In March and April 2005, the U.A.E. Government announced a variety of measures to begin to address the country's serious trafficking problems more effectively. The government announced in April that a new law, similar to the Presidential ban already in place but not enforced since September 2002, would be enacted soon. The law reportedly would ban jockeys under age 16 from participating in camel races and stipulate that a jockey's weight must exceed 45 kilograms (99 pounds). At the time of this writing, the law had not been enacted. The U.A.E. Government also announced in April new procedures to facilitate the repatriation of those underage foreign camel jockeys already in the country and to prevent new ones from entering. Beginning on March 31, 2005, camel farm owners would have two months to repatriate all underage foreign camel jockeys working on their farms. After this grace period, the government would begin levying fines against anyone harboring underage camel jockeys. The government stated in March 2005 that it would enforce a new requirement that all source-country expatriate residents, including children, have their own passports. The government reportedly instructed ports of entry to ensure that no underage children enter the country for the purpose of being used as a camel jockey. It also stated that a medical committee would begin conducting tests on all jockeys as part of the pre-race handicapping. The government reported that it had identified adequate shelters in Pakistan and Bangladesh to assist underage camel jockeys who had been repatriated to those countries, and that it would provide financing to source country organizations to handle such repatriations. From October 2002 to January 2005, the U.A.E., through the use of iris recognition technology and document fraud detecting methods, prevented 26,000 potential illegal immigrants from coming into the country, some of whom were likely trafficking victims.

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