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United Arab Emirates: UN expert urges further action to protect victims of trafficking

ABU DHABI (17 April 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, urged the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) authorities -at Federal and Emirate level- to further concentrate on the plight of the victims of trafficking, while keeping up their fight against human trafficking.

“The UAE must be commended for its strong commitment to combat trafficking in persons both at the domestic level and in the Gulf region,” Ms. Ezeilo said* at the end of her first official visit to the country from 11-17 April. “However it needs to devote greater attention to identification of countless victims of all forms of trafficking and guarantee their right to effective remedy.”

“I met with victims trafficked from all regions, be it Asia, Africa, Europe or Latin America, which makes the uniqueness of the challenges faced by this country in combating this phenomenon,” said the human rights expert, noting that foreign workers make up more than 170 different nationalities in the UAE.

“I also found that the most common forms of trafficking in the UAE are prevalent in sex trade and domestic work for women, and children in some cases, while for men, it is in the labour industry,” she said. This has led to the creation of a lucrative market for criminal involvement in the market of foreign workers, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking.

For the Special Rapporteur, one of the major tasks ahead will be to reduce that vulnerability to human trafficking by means of safe and legal migration arrangements, in order to ensure that the high demand for cheap, low-skilled or semi-skilled foreign labour is not exploited by traffickers and agents.

“I urge the Government to expand the definition of trafficking, to explicitly include labour exploitation, domestic servitude as well as other forms of trafficking such as forced and servile marriages,” Ms. Ezeilo stressed. “Despite official efforts to sensitizing law enforcement officers on the issue of human trafficking, the identification of victims, especially domestic workers trafficked for labour exploitation still remains non-existent and problematic.”

The independent expert also drew attention to the lack of comprehensive statistical information on prevalence rate, forms, trends and manifestation of human trafficking in the UAE. Attention has being focused almost exclusively on trafficking for sexual exploitation, making other forms of trafficking practically invisible and unrecognized by the general population, the authorities and the victims themselves.
Even though current Federal law penalizes human trafficking, Ms. Ezeilo also noted, it does not include any provision for victims’ protection, assistance, recovery, rehabilitation or on their right to compensation.

“This absence of the right to an effective remedy undeniably places victims at an increased risk of falling once again into the hands of traffickers,” she said. “Adequate compensation for the violations of human rights, to which victims of trafficking are subjected, indeed goes a long way in helping them in their rehabilitation and reintegration into normal life.”

During her seven-day mission, the Special Rapporteur visited Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, where she met with Federal and Emirate level government officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labour, Interior, Justice, Social Affairs, and various other departments and agencies, including the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, the Judicial Department, Public Prosecution and the Police.

“More importantly,” Ms. Ezeilo said, “I met with victims themselves, including foreign workers at labour camps, and visited the Ewa’a shelters in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.”

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report with her findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo started her mandate as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children in August 2008. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has served in various governmental capacities and consulted for various international organizations, and is currently involved in several NGOs, particularly working on women’s rights. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law. Ms. Ezeilo was conferred with a national honour (Officer of the Order of Nigeria) in 2006 for her work as a human right defender. Learn more: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/trafficking/index.htm

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12062&LangID=E

OHCHR Country Page – United Arab Emirates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/AEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Jan Mola (+ 971 2 446 76 00 / jan.mola@undp.org) or write to srtrafficking@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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