DUBAI // Properly trained female officers are the key to combating human trafficking crimes, Dubai Police say.
Last year, 35 human trafficking cases were referred to public prosecution, an increase of more than a third from the previous year. The majority of the 61 victims in last year's cases were women, according to the Dubai Police human trafficking annual report.
"Human trafficking requires more proactivity from women. They are better positioned to deal with this crime because of its sensitive nature and because most victims are women," said Maj Gen Khamis al Mazeina, the deputy head of Dubai Police.
He was speaking at the inauguration of a two-day workshop on the role of woman in combating human trafficking, organised by Dubai Police in co-ordination with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Having identified the importance of women's involvement in human trafficking cases, Dubai Police set about providing training for female officers to better enable them to deal with such cases, according to Maj Gen al Mazeina.
"We give training on human trafficking a high priority, because the concept of human trafficking is a new concept and by developing skills we will enhance our ability to tackle this crime," he said.
This week's workshop, which aims to enhance the skills of women in law enforcement and those working at human trafficking shelters, provides training on international and local mechanisms for prevention and how to deal with human trafficking cases and their victims.
The participants will be taught about national strategies and the challenges facing the judicial system in investigating and trying these crimes. They will also come to grips with the realities faced by female victims by examining cases that have been through the Dubai court system.
Of the 255 people who received training last year, 88 were women. The trainees were drawn from law enforcement agencies and other organisations across the country.
Dubai Police are also running their first criminal investigation course, on which female officers can enhance their investigation skills.
Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, Afra al Basti, the executive director at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, said it was essential women be involved from start to finish when it came to dealing with human trafficking and, in particular, sex trade crimes.
"The concept of human trafficking among people working in law enforcement has changed," she said. "Workshops like these play an important role in that.
"What is happening now in this field is definitely not what was happening five years ago. More women are being deployed to work, we have females investigating human trafficking cases at the public prosecution and the police have also started getting more female officers involved," said Ms al Basti.
Major Dr Sultan al Jamal, director of the Anti Human Trafficking Control Centre at Dubai Police, agreed that there had been an increase of awareness among law enforcement officials since the federal law on combating human trafficking was passed in 2006. "Many of the cases which are discovered today would have gone unnoticed just a few years ago and this is due to an increase in the understanding of the nature of human trafficking case which can be partly attributed to similar workshops organised in the past," he said.
Zahra Abdul al Hamid, a policewoman who works at Naif Police Station and attended the workshop, said there was still a lack of understanding on the nature of the human trafficking crimes. "I personally do not know much about this crime and many of my colleagues cannot distinguish between a human trafficking victim and prostitution," she said.
Her opinion was shared by Aisha Ahmed, another policewoman who attended the workshop. "This is the first time I have attend a workshop on human trafficking and I find it useful," she said.