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UN General Assembly debate on human trafficking lauds efforts of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

posted on 04/06/2008: 747 views

New York - A United Nations General Assembly debate on human trafficking has hailed the efforts of HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to support the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT).

"Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly Debate on Human trafficking have expressed their commendations to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan for his generous donation of $ 15 million to set up UN.GIFT", said H.E Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the UAE's National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

Addressing the UNGA debate on human trafficking, Dr. Gargash said the UAE had been a committed partner in UN.GIFT initiative through the support of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. The UAE, he said, has contributed actively to this initiative and pledges continued support.

"The UAE's anti-human trafficking measures fully share in the UN's priorities of raising awareness, promoting international partnerships and collectively addressing this phenomenon. We intend to do more in partnership with the member states gathered here today, non-government organizations and like-minded individuals who are with us in this fight", Dr. Gargash told the gathering.

He added that UAE has demonstrated its commitment to the prevention and elimination of trafficking through the ratification of international human rights treaties, focusing on the rights of women and children in general, as well as trafficking. It has also taken a number of national legislative and policy measures to prevent and combat human trafficking.

Elaborating on UAE counter-trafficking strategy, he said the country has evolved a four-pillared action plan that includes legislation; enforcement; victim support; as well as bilateral agreements and international partnerships. This strategy supports the UN's three-pronged approach of Prevention, Protection and Prosecution, he said.

In the field of legislation, the Minister said the UAE had passed a strong anti-human trafficking law, the first of its kind in the region.

"Our 16-article Federal Law 51 of November 2006 classifies human trafficking as an element of organised crime and covers all its manifestations not just overt enslavement, but also sexual exploitation, child labour, and commerce in human organs. The law mandates the support and protection of victims and contains powerful and compelling penalties for those convicted, including fines of up to a quarter million US dollars and life imprisonment", he said.

On enforcement of the law, he pointed out that at least 10 human trafficking cases were registered between November 2006 and the end of 2007. There have already been convictions in at least five cases, with the convicted receiving jail terms ranging from 3 to 10 years, he explained.

To ensure better implementation of the new measures, he said, the federal government is continually training our law enforcement officers. A training series has been launched on the security risks related to human trafficking, human rights issues, prevention and control, as well as investigation methodology.

Dr. Gargash noted that the UAE is also concerned with prosecuting and preventing any exploitation of the labour workforce and has introduced a series of measures that are beginning to positively impact the country's labour climate. "We are strengthening our mechanisms to ensure that enforcement of our laws constantly improves", he said.

Minister Gargash also cited the UAE's most high-profile effort to address human trafficking a few years ago in response to recruitment practices taking place in the traditional sport of camel racing. Unfortunately this sport, he said, became associated with child exploitation. But the UAE government immediately stepped in to regulate the sport and requested technical expertise from UNICEF to help protect and rehabilitate child victims. Between May 2005 and September 2006, all 1,077 child camel jockeys were successfully and safely returned to their homes in Asia and Africa. The repatriation and rehabilitation program included establishment of transit centres providing medical assistance to affected children, a family tracing system, social care, educational campaigns and establishment of community care committees. In April 2007, the UAE and UNICEF opened a second phase of activity, which will continue until May 2009, to directly safeguard repatriated children from further exploitation in hazardous or exploitative labour. As part of this mechanism, a joint team started visiting several countries last month to establish claims facilities to provide compensation to former jockeys, in addition to the previous assistance. – Emirates News Agency, WAM


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