Questions raised over possible trafficking of Nepali women to the UAE

Indian agency claims Nepali women being trafficked to Dubai through New Delhi to work as prostitutes in emirate.

Dr Saeed Al Ghufli, National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking coordinator, said no human trafficking case had been reported by the Nepalese embassy in the UAE. Andrew Henderson / The National
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ABU DHABI // The UAE has disputed a news report that claims thousands of Nepali women were trafficked to Dubai from New Delhi to work as prostitutes.

According to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), about 6,000 to 8,000 Nepalese women were allegedly trafficked through December last year.

The figures appeared in a report on Tuesday in The Times of India, an English daily.

“A multi-agency international operation, led by CBI, has stumbled upon an organised racket of trafficking Nepalese girls to Dubai for alleged prostitution and Delhi’s IGI [Indira Gandhi International] airport is the transit point for their travelling to the Gulf country,” the report said.

Dr Saeed Al Ghufli, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking coordinator, disputed the figure. He said no cases had been reported from the Nepalese embassy and it had not asked for assistance.

Dr Al Ghufli said there was no way of knowing about such cases if an embassy withheld such information.

“No case reported is ever ignored,” he said. “The Nepalese embassy never turned to officials to report such cases. Why are they good in reporting this to the media and not to us?”

If the women had come to the UAE alone and willingly got involved in prostitution, he said, then the matter would be different.

He urged embassies and anyone with information about trafficked victims to report them immediately to authorities who were trained to deal with victims.

If an embassy was serious about combating such crimes it should register a case with the committee, the police or the labour ministry, he said.

A senior CBI agency official said: “The girls are booked with tickets, provided visas and hotel reservations in Nairobi, Kenya, via Dubai for tourist purposes. But when they land in Dubai, their tickets for Nairobi and hotel bookings are cancelled.

“We found that IGI airport has emerged as a major transit point for alleged prostitution rackets supplying girls to Gulf countries through such channels,” the report said.

Dr Mona Al Bahar, a Federal National Council member, said she had not heard of many cases involving Nepali women.

After working with the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, which assists trafficking victims, she said it was a rarity to come across a Nepali victim.

“The UAE has a clear law on this,” she said. “If they are being trafficked, then their rights are protected in the UAE,” she said. “But we want to know how credible this report from India is. We have not heard of these cases.”

According to UAE law, she said, even if these women were coming here willingly to work in prostitution they would still be protected and considered a victim.

“There is no woman that would reach this stage, except if this is the only thing left,” Dr Al Bahar said. “She is then a victim.”

She said that if India was being used as a transit destination for trafficking, laws in Delhi needed tightening to ensure they were strong enough to combat traffickers.

The Nepalese embassy in Abu Dhabi said there were problems with human trafficking but disputed the CBI figures.

“There is a strong nexus working to transport such girls to the UAE, even Indian immigration officials are bribed per person to clear the immigration for Nepalese,” said Dhananjay Jha, the Nepalese ambassador to the UAE.

“They not only travel from India, they also travel from out of our own airport in Nepal,” he said.

“I can’t say all those who immigrated from New Delhi are pushed into sex work, they could be employed in salons, cleaning, dance bars or domestic work. But I certainly can say those working in dance bars work also as prostitutes regardless of their nationalities.”

They come on legal documents because in the UAE you cannot survive on illegal documents, but they are involved in prostitution willingly, the envoy said.

Mr Jha said Nepal had introduced measures to stop the exploitation of its people and travel to Arab countries on visitors visas was now not allowed until approved by Nepalese missions.

The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to comment until it had received an official order from its government.