U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates (Tier 2)

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is a destination country for men, women and children trafficked primarily from South and East Asia and the former Soviet Union for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. A significant number of foreign women are lured to the U.A.E. under false pretenses and subsequently forced into sexual servitude, primarily by criminals of their own country who take advantage of the U.A.E.'s openness. Far fewer boys are trafficked from South Asian countries to serve as forced camel jockeys due to the U.A.E.'s effective implementation of new measures to curb this form of trafficking.

The Government of the U.A.E. does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The U.A.E. is categorized as Tier 2 this year because of the lack of evidence of appreciable progress in addressing trafficking for sexual exploitation. Significant efforts to address sex trafficking would include a revised law criminalizing trafficking as defined distinctly from prostitution or immigration violations, clearly defined standards for identifying trafficking cases by U.A.E. law enforcement authorities, more vigorous steps to identify and rescue trafficking victims among the thousands of foreign prostitutes in the U.A.E., and prosecution of foreign traffickers operating in the Emirates.


The U.A.E. does not have an anti-trafficking law, though most forms of trafficking are criminalized under disparate existing statutes. A 2002 presidential decree against the use of children below the age of 15 for camel jockey work was well enforced by the Emirates' Camel Racing Federation during the reporting period. U.A.E. media widely reported on the decree's implementation throughout the year. The U.A.E. Government took limited steps to enforce laws against prostitution and trafficking; more vigorous efforts will be required. Enforcement efforts focused largely on the arrest of 4,924 foreign women, some of them possibly trafficking victims, for prostitution. The Dubai police reported 166 cases of trafficking-related cases involving foreigners, and five cases involving U.A.E. citizens; some of these cases may be related to prostitution. The Dubai authorities also report closing 104 travel agencies for visa trading, including the possible sale of visas to traffickers. There were five cases of "forced prostitution" (trafficking) prosecuted in the U.A.E. in 2003. Police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Emirates do not clearly distinguish trafficking cases from prostitution and illegal immigration.


The U.A.E. Government's efforts to protect victims of sex trafficking are weak, in large part because police and immigration authorities do not systematically distinguish trafficking victims from people arrested for immigration violations or prostitution-related offenses who are living and working in the U.A.E. voluntarily. The U.A.E. police reportedly continue to arrest trafficking victims along with prostitutes and incarcerate them. Efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking for camel jockey work are excellent. In what has become a model for the region, the U.A.E. Government uses DNA testing to verify the familial ties of the adults claiming to be the parents of children brought to the U.A.E. Through DNA testing, 47 children trafficked to the U.A.E. by false "parents" were detected in 2003. During the same time period, over 250 Pakistani and Bangladeshi children, trafficked to the U.A.E. as camel jockeys, were repatriated by the U.A.E. Government. Foreign domestic workers, who in rare cases encounter involuntary servitude conditions that meet the definition of trafficking, are afforded adequate protections under U.A.E. law.


The U.A.E. has made substantial efforts to prevent incidents of trafficking, particularly the trafficking of children for camel jockey work and the severe exploitation of foreign domestic workers. Its Ministry of Labor (MOL) distributes informational material to newly arrived foreign workers, advising them of their rights under Emirati law, and providing them with guidance on how to handle disputes or abuses, including contact information for the MOL and foreign embassies and consulates in the U.A.E. The Ministry of Information has increased public awareness through information campaigns about the trafficking of boys for camel jockeys. The Dubai Police and Human Rights Care Department conducted informational seminars on trafficking during the year and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs engaged the IOM in discussions over future cooperation to prevent trafficking to the U.A.E. and protect victims found in the Emirates. The U.A.E. in July 2003 banned the long-standing practice of employers holding their employees' passports, and encouraged employees to contact the police for assistance with reclaiming their passports.


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