Tough line curbs the human traffickers

Clampdown pays off as better awareness and more effective countermeasures credited with fall in exploitation cases.

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ABU DHABI // Swift prosecution and conviction of human traffickers has helped curb the number of cases in the country, with 54 arrested last year.

According to official statistics in the Annual Report 2015 released by the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking on Sunday, 24 women were the victims in 17 cases of sexual exploitation registered across the country.

“The statistics suggest growing awareness about human trafficking among the public and intensifying countermeasures adopted by various official agencies, ministries and non-government organisations involved in tackling this crime,” said Saeed Al Ghafli, assistant undersecretary, ministry of state for the FNC Affairs and NCCHT rapporteur.

There were convictions in three cases last year, with imprisonment ranging from one to five years and penalties starting from Dh100,000 followed by deportation.

Of these, four traffickers from Dubai convicted last year were sentenced to five years in jail. The punishment handed down to two traffickers from Abu Dhabi was three years and one year respectively.

The remaining cases are under judicial investigation and judgments are expected this year.

Of the 17 cases registered last year, 10 were from Dubai, with two each from Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and one each from Ajman, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

Forty six traffickers were arrested in 2014 in 15 cases involving 20 victims, while 50 traffickers were held the year before in 19 cases with 24 victims.

The 2015 annual report reiterates the Government’s stance to fight the illegal trade in prostitution ever since the country enacted Federal Law 51 in 2006.

“The Government will intensify its campaign with each passing year, with zero tolerance as its motto, and in line with international standards,” the report said.

Depending on the severity of exploitation, jail terms range from six months to life imprisonment with penalties up to Dh1 million.

“The UAE firmly stands against the exploitation of human beings,” Mr Al Ghafli said. “The resolve to fight trafficking at home and abroad in collaboration with international partners remains central to the country’s anti-trafficking strategy.”

The number was higher in 2012 with 47 registered cases involving 149 traffickers and 75 victims, with 37 cases the year before in which 111 traffickers were arrested and 51 victims found.

Government workers have said that women from poor nations are often tricked by friends or family with promises of good jobs and high wages overseas.

There have also been cases uncovered by police of runaway maids lured by criminals assuring them better salaries but forcing them into prostitution.

An awareness campaign warning about the dangers of trafficking continues this year also extending to companies recruiting domestic workers.

The multilingual campaign was launched to spread the message on combating trafficking, to target different parts of the population and advertise the toll-free helpline number for both victims and informers.

The drive included adverts in English and Arabic newspapers aimed at victims and traffickers. Pocket-sized booklets were also distributed in eight languages including Russian, Indonesian, Bengali and Basha to reach out to victims as part of the strategy.

Other efforts include an anti-human trafficking diploma course to hone the skills of law enforcement officials, and disbursing almost Dh300,000 from the Fund for Victims.