UAE visa process should include human trafficking awareness, expert says

A knowledge-based campaign would educate prospective residents on the UAE in general and the employment process, which would highlight if they have been duped or not by rogue agents.
Major General Khamis Al Muzeina, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, attends the Conference of Combating Human Trafficking Through Mediation Agencies and Employing Proper Capabilities at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
Major General Khamis Al Muzeina, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, attends the Conference of Combating Human Trafficking Through Mediation Agencies and Employing Proper Capabilities at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // Information on forced labour and human trafficking should be included in the visa process for those looking to work in the UAE, an expert says.

General facts of the country and its employment process could also be included, said Obeid bin Suroor, deputy director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs in Dubai.

Mr bin Suroor said this would help people to recognise whether they had been duped by unscrupulous recruitment agencies.

“Just like the UAE requires residents to undergo a medical exam before they receive their residency, they should go through an awareness system informing them of everything they need to know about the country,” he said.

“What are its traditions, culture and religion? What is prohibited, what is not? What are their rights concerning working hours and holiday days?

“If they are mistreated, to what authorities do they go? They should also be told of the penalties and consequences of crimes such as stealing and killing.

“It would ease pressure on the police and the Ministry of Labour. Everybody is a winner – the employee, the employer, the government sectors – because everyone will be more informed.

“Awareness programmes should be integrated into the system but they are like fireworks – they have a presence and then disappear. There needs to be a more realistic approach.”

Mr bin Suroor was speaking on the second day of a Dubai conference on trafficking.

He said that residents should be given refresher courses every couple of years, and that collaboration between the Government and private sector was needed to make such a system work.

“We agree on material with a number of institutions, which will implement the system, after which a person receives a certificate guaranteeing that he knows the information,” he said.

Mr bin Suroor said human trafficking was a form of organised crime that should be cut off at the source. He stressed the need for international collaboration.

“Conferences are great to share experiences and good practice but should be turned into reality,” he said.

“Three years ago we established a team called International Officers, made up of agents from the UAE, UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

“This team meets once a month and studies and researches human trafficking, and we’ve uncovered more than 10 cases of smuggling and trafficking.”

Mr bin Suroor said his directorate had uncovered 914 fake documents so far this year, a decrease from 968 last year.

These figures, he said, showed the seriousness of the problem.

Ali bin Khatam, chief prosecutor at the Department of Naturalisation and Residence in Dubai, said most human trafficking cases that came before prosecutors involve domestic workers.

“We’ve seen a number of cases of absconding domestic workers that were then exploited and forced into prostitution, a form of human trafficking,” Mr bin Khatam said.

“Other cases included victims that were exploited by unlicensed mediation agencies from their countries of origin and forced into the sex industry once they arrive in the UAE.”

Anyone found to be exploiting a worker face a jail sentence and a minimum fine of Dh10,000.

“One of our cases were of three women who were licensed to work at a women’s salon, but upon investigation, their sponsor had forced them into working in a massage parlour,” said Mr bin Khatam. “The sponsor was fined Dh30,000.”

He said knowledge remained the first line of defence against forced labour and human trafficking.

dmoukhallati@thenational.ae

Published: December 10, 2014 04:00 AM

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