Dubai: A survey to assess Dubai residents’ awareness of human trafficking showed that 94 per cent of the respondents have a comprehensive or partial awareness of the concept of human trafficking.

It also showed that there is a consensus about the need for tougher punitive measures for those implicated in human trafficking crimes.

The survey, which was carried out by Addaera Polls and Research Centre, commissioned by Dubai Police’s Centre of Human Trafficking Monitor and Control Centre in 2014, was completed in 2015 and the results were announced at a press conference on December 15.

Maj Gen Dr Abdul Quddus Abdul Razzaq Al Obaidli, Assistant to the Dubai Police Chief for Total Quality at Dubai Police, said: “This is the first study of its kind in the UAE and the Middle East, and it helped us understand how effective the efforts we have been putting to combat and raise awareness on human trafficking were.”

He said that this will also help them form better and more effective plans for the future.

The study surveyed a stratified random sample of 1,597 individuals from Dubai, and included three different sectors: people from the government sector (823 individuals or 51.5 per cent of the total sample); people from the private sector (485 individuals or 30 per cent of the sample); and 285 members of the public (17.8 per cent of the sample), which included people from 20 nationalities picked from highly populated areas of Dubai.

Hana Lootah, CEO at Addaera Polls and Research Centre, who presented the findings, said the survey showed that while 94 per cent of the respondents knew what human trafficking was, only 79 per cent of them knew that there is a human trafficking law in the UAE, while 21 per cent did not know.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents knew that human trafficking is more than people being trafficked for sex, and that it can include forced labour, child labour, child trafficking and slavery, while 47 per cent thought it only includes people trafficked for sex and only four per cent had no idea what it was, while two per cent had a different understanding of the subject.

She said that what was interesting is that 68 per cent of the respondents get their information about human trafficking from the media, while 47 per cent get it from awareness campaigns, lectures or workshops and 24 per cent know about human trafficking from victims of the crime.

“This is why the media should play a more active role in raising awareness on the issue,” Lootah said.

As for the UAE’s efforts in combating the crime, 33.1 per cent said that they were fully aware of the efforts, 35 per cent said they are somewhat aware, while 31.9 per cent said they were unaware.

As to who can be a victim of human trafficking, 64 per cent of the respondents said anyone can be, while 35 said women, 28 per cent said children and seven per cent men.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents said that a woman working in prostitution can be a victim of human trafficking, while 19 per cent said no.

Lootah said the recommendations that resulted from the survey included preparing educational information about the subject for awareness campaigns to raise overall awareness of the concept of human trafficking across all segments of society.

“Raise the level of awareness about the UAE’s efforts in the fight against human trafficking, provide training programmes for all police personnel — not just those involved with combating human trafficking — so as to increase the chances of identifying victims of the crime,” she said.

Including material on how to identify victims of human trafficking, as well as statistics and indexes of the crime as part of the academic curriculum taught to all police recruits were also recommended.

Other recommendations included putting more effort into the rehabilitation process for victims to ensure a decent life for them and educating health-care providers on identifying victims of the crime.

Having awareness brochures and posters about human trafficking at all UAE ports, which explains the crime, the UAE law and how one could be a victim or accomplice in such crimes were also recommended.