UAE and Indian officials during the meeting on combating human trafficking. Image Credit: UAE Ministry of Interior

Abu Dhabi: The UAE and India this week held bilateral talks on enhancing cooperation to prevent human trafficking, especially the trafficking of women and children between the two countries.

Some Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to address issues of human trafficking have been formulated following the talks, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi said in a statement issued to Gulf News on Tuesday.

The talks were held during the first Joint Committee Meeting on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Combating Trafficking in Persons signed between India and the UAE, the mission stated.

Speaking to Gulf News, Smita Pant, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, said both countries took active steps in cooperating on the subject. “Both sides have designated focal points to handle the related matters. This will be a work in progress,” she added.

The two countries had signed the MoU on human trafficking in January 2017 during the India visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The pact was announced after Sheikh Mohamed’s meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the eve of the Indian Republic Day celebrations where Sheikh Mohamed was the chief guest.

Joint strategies

In a joint statement at the conclusion of Sheikh Mohamed’s visit, the two leaders described the MoU as an important step forward in developing joint strategies to combat threats of human trafficking.

Both the countries later formed a joint task force to work together to prevent and fight human trafficking and a high level delegation from the Government of India visited the UAE on Sunday and Monday for the first meeting of the joint committee.

The UAE Ministry of Interior (MoI) has stated on its website that the Indian delegation headed by Punya Salila Srivastava, joint secretary for Women’s Safety at the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, reviewed the MoI’s experience and efforts in countering human trafficking.

The delegation also viewed the security procedures and measures taken by the MoI in countering this crime according to the applied laws in the country, the ministry added.

The Indian Embassy said the delegation consisted of representatives from the Indian ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs, Women and Child Welfare and Labour.

“During their stay in the UAE, both sides held wide-ranging bilateral talks on enhancing cooperation to prevent human trafficking, especially trafficking of women and children between the two countries,” the mission stated.

“The visit was constructive and fruitful and helped in devising some Standard Operating Procedures to address issues of human trafficking.”

The Indian delegation also visited an Ewa’a Shelter for Victims of Human Trafficking in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children in Dubai to understand the best practices being followed in the UAE.

They also visited a Tadbeer centre in Dubai to see and understand the process of recruitment, training and visa formalities involved in the employment of domestic workers in the UAE.

Purposes and provisions of MoU

“The MoU will strengthen the bond of friendship between the two countries and increase the bilateral cooperation on the issues of prevention, rescue, recovery and repatriation related to human trafficking especially women and children expeditiously,” the Indian government stated at the time when the union cabinet chaired by Modi approved the signing of the MoU with the UAE in April 2016.

The MoU aims to ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of traffickers and organised crime syndicates in either country. It also includes measures to protect the rights of victims of trafficking.

“Anti-trafficking Cells and Task Forces will work on both sides to prevent human trafficking. Police and other authorities concerned will work in close cooperation and exchange information which can be used to interdict human traffickers,” India had said.

Repatriation of victims would be done as expeditiously as possible and the home country would undertake the safe and effective reintegration of the victims.

“The reinforcement of anti-trafficking efforts at all levels between the UAE and India is essential for prevention and protection of victims. This requires mutual cooperation among both the countries for intelligence sharing, joint investigation and a coordinated response to the challenges of human trafficking,” the statement added.