Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, will conduct her first fact-finding mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
She will visit the UAE from April 11th to 17th to review the region’s efforts to combat trafficking as well as to speak with victims and other stakeholders. Her week-long tour will see her visit Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Ms Ezeilo, who took up her office in August 2008, reports to the UN Human Rights Council. The council has a mandate to promote and protect human rights while addressing human rights violations and making recommendations to rectify them.
A report by Human Rights Watch released in March found that despite progress, South Asian workers continue to suffer human rights abuses. The group called for better safeguards for the these workers.
The group’s report, The Island of Happiness Revisited: A Progress Report on Institutional Commitments to Address Abuses of Migrant Workers on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, stated that protection gaps include the slow reimbursement of workers for recruitment fees (which can lead to forced labour) as well as lapses in punishing abusive contracting firms.
Progress was made recently when it comes to women and children. According to last summer’s Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department, the government as opened shelters in Ras al Khaimah and Sharjah for child and women victims of trafficking. Shelter residents receive medical and psychological care as well as legal and vocational assistance.
The UAE is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but maintains reservations on Articles 7, 14, 17 and 21. It does not have a reservation on Article 35, which requires state parties to take all measures possible to prevent the abduction, sale or trafficking of children. The UAE has not signed or ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
However, a mission conducted last year found that there are only a small number of cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation. As of information from about four years ago, children accounted for 26 per cent of the trafficking victims living at a regional shelter.