U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates (Tier 2 Watch List)

The United Arab Emirates is a destination country for men, women, and children trafficked from South and East Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for involuntary servitude and for sexual exploitation. An estimated 10,000 women from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco may be victims of sex trafficking in the U.A.E. Women also migrate from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines to work as domestic servants, but may have their passports confiscated, be denied permission to leave the place of employment in the home, and face sexual or physical abuse by their employers. Similarly, men from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan come to the U.A.E. to work in the construction industry, but may be subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude as they are coerced to pay off recruitment and travel costs that can exceed two years' wages, sometimes having their wages denied for months at a time. Victims of child camel jockey trafficking may still remain in the U.A.E. Once a destination for thousands of young boys trafficked from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, and Mauritania to work as camel jockeys, the U.A.E. enacted a law banning the practice in July 2005, and all identified victims were repatriated at the government's expense to their home countries. Questions persist as to the effectiveness of the ban, and the number of victims is still unidentified.

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 placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show increased efforts to combat trafficking over the past year, particularly in its efforts to address the large-scale trafficking of foreign girls and women for commercial sexual exploitation. Despite a significant problem of sex trafficking, U.A.E. authorities failed to take adequate measures to screen women found in prostitution in order to determine whether they were victims of trafficking, and to provide them with adequate care. Instead, many victims are jailed along with criminals and deported. Prosecutions for sex trafficking are extremely low relative to the scope of the problem. The government should do more to improve screening for victims, encourage victims to testify against their traffickers, and provide them with alternatives to detention and deportation.


Over the year, the U.A.E. made minimal improvements in its law enforcement efforts, particularly with regard to prosecutions for sex trafficking. Despite approximately 100 reported complaints of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2005, the government reported only 22 convictions for sex trafficking crimes. Victims of sex trafficking are regularly treated as criminals if they entered the U.A.E. consensually, regardless of their being subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude later. Similarly, the government prosecuted no cases of labor trafficking this year; in fact, the U.A.E. does not identify laborers forced into involuntary servitude as trafficking victims if they are over the age of 18 and entered the country voluntarily.

The Dubai police established a human trafficking division to investigate trafficking crimes, and police, prosecutors, judges, and other government officials received anti-trafficking training. Nonetheless, investigations and prosecutions for trafficking remain uneven; although the government regularly inspects for violations of the child camel jockey ban, police do not proactively investigate sex or labor trafficking, resulting in many victims being deported as criminals or remaining in trafficking conditions. In July 2005, the U.A.E. banned the use of camel jockeys under the age of 18, and has convicted 20 individuals for trafficking child camel jockeys. The U.A.E. should significantly increase prosecutions of all forms of trafficking, recognize forced labor as a form of trafficking even if the victim came to the U.A.E. willingly, and actively investigate trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation.


The U.A.E. made uneven progress in protecting trafficking victims this year. The government failed to provide adequate protection to victims of labor trafficking, often deporting them or relying on source country embassies to care for them. The U.A.E. also continues to arrest and deport between 5,000 and 6,000 foreign women found in prostitution annually without adequately screening them for evidence of trafficking or offering them legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Women who identify themselves as trafficking victims may be housed in hotels pending their testimony against their traffickers and can access counseling, medical care, and repatriation aid from the Victim Assistance Unit in Dubai, though in practice such assistance to trafficking victims is sporadic. Victims often conceal that they were trafficked, fearing retribution by traffickers if they are compelled by local police to cooperate in an investigation or prosecution. Improved screening for indications of trafficking and additional alternatives to deportation are necessary to identify these victims and provide an avenue of escape for those who wish to pursue it. The U.A.E. has reportedly been uncooperative in repatriating victims to Tajikistan.

In July, with the help of UNICEF, the U.A.E. established additional shelters for rescued child camel jockeys. Between late 2005 and early 2006, the government repatriated approximately 1,071 children identified by UNICEF and the U.A.E. as trafficking victims, and provided funding to facilitate their reintegration into their home countries. It is unclear how many unidentified child camel jockey victims may still remain in the country. The U.A.E. should increase protection for victims of forced labor, improve screening to distinguish illegal migrants and women arrested for prostitution from trafficking victims, and provide shelters to protect victims during investigation and prosecution of the traffickers.


The U.A.E. made noticeable progress in its efforts to prevent trafficking in persons this year. The Dubai police established a website and 24-hour hotline for victims to lodge complaints. The government also launched an anti-trafficking awareness campaign including public advertisements and pamphlets distributed in airports, worksites, and embassies warning potential victims of their rights and resources.


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