H.E. / Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash
Chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
Human trafficking is an issue that affects many countries around the world including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite the challenges posed by this crime, the UAE as a committed and responsible member of the international community has been proactive in the global fight to combat human trafficking. The issue is increasingly being addressed publicly by both the government and media and is a top priority for the UAE government.
The country’s resolve to fight this crime at home and abroad has resulted in a comprehensive five-pillar (5Ps) action plan that includes: Prevention, Prosecution, Punishment, Protection and Promotion (of international cooperation).
The UAE anti-human trafficking law – Federal Law 51 of November 2006, the first of its kind in the region – takes into account the existing federal laws on entry and residency of foreigners, labour, camel races and criminal procedures, as well as the penal code. It calls for strong punitive measures, including maximum penalties of life imprisonment and covers all forms of human trafficking.
Further, the Cabinet established the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking in April 2007. This serves as a coordinating body for anti-human trafficking efforts at all levels in the seven emirates of the federation. It is headed by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Federal National Council Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash. Its members include representatives from the federal ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, as well as from the State Security Authority and the UAE Red Crescent Society.
The Committee is responsible for promoting the strict enforcement of Federal Law 51 and its provisions. It is also tasked with studying and revising human trafficking legislations with a view to securing the necessary protection according to international standards. It develops public awareness and victim sensitivity training programmes for the relevant bodies and individuals dealing with victims of trafficking; and represents the UAE officially in handling international requests, enquiries, and delegations related to human trafficking issues.
As part of its international commitment, the UAE ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) in 2007. The Cabinet has also approved the ratification of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol), which is one of the two protocols attached to the Organised Crime Convention.
To ensure that our legislation and enforcement mechanisms have a human face, the UAE’s holistic approach includes initiatives that focus on how victims are treated by law enforcement officials, as well as expand the help and welfare programmes available to them. The government has a healthy track record of providing assistance and protection to victims of sexual abuse. Police departments and non-government organisations provide shelter and support for these victims. They have been given protective places until they are able to acquire the right documents, and are then returned home at the government’s expense under the Crime Victim Assistance Programme. The government's continuing two-phase repatriation and rehabilitation programme for former child camel jockeys amounts to about 40 million dirhams ($11 million). In addition, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, committed 55 million dirhams (US$ 15 million) to support the UN.GIFT, which is coordinated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This included sponsoring the United Nations Conference on Trafficking in Persons in Vienna in February 2008 and funding The Global Report on Trafficking Persons that was released in February 2009.
The UAE has achieved much in a short space of time, but realises that much more needs to be done to combat the challenge. The government is committed to serving as an active member of the international community to tackle this phenomenon. The country will continue to acknowledge our shortcomings and demonstrate resolve by vigorously improving its five-pillar action plan. We will continue to welcome direct discussion and collaboration with other sovereign governments, public or private sector groups, or international organizations – that will help stem the tide of human trafficking.