Brochures warning against human trafficking to be distributed among housemaids in UAE

Aid workers from organisations including the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children will work with federal bodies such as the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking to raise awareness.

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DUBAI // It is a sad story occasionally uncovered by police: runaway maids lured by unscrupulous criminals with promises of better salaries, only to be forced into prostitution.
But aid workers from organisations including the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children are working with bodies such as the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking to warn residents and housemaids about such dangers.
Afra Al Basti, director general of the foundation, said there had been instances of housemaids running away from their employers for better jobs and salaries in other emirates, only to become victims of trafficking.
The foundation on Monday signed an agreement with the Swedish Global Child Forum for exchange of knowledge and information on children's rights.
Brochures in different languages would be distributed to maids, she said.
Four years ago, this method used by traffickers to exploit women was first explained to aid workers when they visited Sweden for training.
"When we went to Sweden four years ago they were talking about in-Sweden trafficking, not trafficking from outside," said Ms Al Basti, also a member of the FNC.
"We were shocked because usually when you look at trafficking it's country of origin, country of transit and country of destination. But now we are having this in the UAE also."
The tactics used by traffickers involve groups of men identifying housemaids and following their movements. They exchange phone numbers with the women while they are away from their employer's homes.
"There will be programmes so housemaids and helpers are made aware of this but we have to be very clear that this is not a phenomenon in the UAE. There are some cases here and there," said Dr Saeed Al Ghafli, member of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.
"Society is starting to understand about human trafficking and families can also give awareness to maids that they should not just leave the house.
"The national committee is working hard to improve services, to create more awareness and education. We have also joined the UN's Blue Heart campaign, which is a global initiative against trafficking."
A drive to crack down on human traffickers was launched at Dubai International Airport last year.
Staff from the Human Rights Office were stationed at the airport to help victims, brochures warned traffickers about harsh penalties and a toll-free number to report crimes was advertised.
Several cases of trafficking have been uncovered by Dubai Police this year and have gone before the Criminal Court.
rtalwar@thenational.ae