Dr Anwar Gargash Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Forty-eight people accused of human trafficking were arrested in the UAE last year in connection with 16 criminal cases involving 28 victims, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Thursday..

“The UAE is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and to continue to combat the crime of human trafficking,” Dr Gargash, who is also chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said as he launched the 2017 anti-human trafficking report in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Gargash stressed the UAE will continue to prove its determination and acknowledge where it needs to improve.

He said the courts concerned have handed down judgements in seven cases, while the remaining nine cases are expected to be decided this year. Two defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 of the cases recorded in 2016.

There has been decrease in number of human traffickers arrested in 2017, compared to 106 arrests made in 2016 in connection with 25 cases involving 34 victims.

Dr Gargash added the UAE will continue to cooperate with all appropriate regional and international law enforcement officials to apprehend, prosecute and punish those violating the UAE’s human trafficking law and those attempting to use the country as a channel to violate anti-trafficking laws of other countries.

He said that the UAE has launched an official campaign to contain this crime through the issuance of Federal Law No. (51) of 2006, amended in 2015 to provide greater guarantees for victims of human trafficking.

“The UAE will strive to focus its energies and potential on training its officials in the field of combating human trafficking, as well as improving partnership between the public and private sectors. It will also enhance cooperation with other international partners to improve coordination and learn from their best practices,” Dr Gargash said.

Dr Gargash added the UAE emphasises its commitment to combating all activities of human trafficking, given that it is a crime against humanity and because it represents a threat to the values of our and other societies. Fighting against such crime must be a common goal for all the governments of the world.

Dr Gargash reiterated the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking is working hard on every element in its ‘5 Ps’ strategy — Prevention, Prosecution, Punishment, Protection and Promotion (of international cooperation).

“Since the government first officially acknowledged this problem, it has consistently and continuously improved its efforts to limit the crime, and has adhered to international standards. In particular, the UAE seeks cooperation to overcome some of the challenges that it faces. This includes: Continuing proactive awareness programmes for countries that send large numbers of workers to the UAE, especially for vulnerable groups; and enhancing public-private partnership, especially from recruitment agencies and business enterprises,” Dr Gargash said.

According to the report’s author, National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT), convictions have been made in seven of the 16 cases, resulting in jail sentences of up to life imprisonment.

The remaining nine cases are before the courts and rulings are expected this year.

The committee said: “The UAE has made great inroads in containing the crime during the last decade … the government will intensify its campaign with each passing year, with zero tolerance as its motto and in line with international standards.”

Graduation ceremony

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation organised the graduation ceremony of the second and third Diploma of Combating Human Trafficking — the first of its kind course in the region.

The ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Abu Dhabi in the presence of Dr Gargash, Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police and members of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, and Dr Hatem Ali, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in the GCC.

The anti-human trafficking diploma programme is one of the most important achievements of the National Commission against Trafficking in Persons, which was first launched in 2015.