Dubai Police on Sunday launched a campaign to crack down on gangs forcing domestic workers into prostitution. It also promised that trafficked housemaids will not be prosecuted, in an attempt to encourage more to come forward and report the crimes.
Housemaids are often recruited to the UAE with the promise of good jobs but then taken to brothels on arrival, according to reports in local media. Dr Mohammed Al Murr, director of Dubai Police’s human rights department, was quoted as saying in Khaleej Times: “[Traffickers] pick them up from the airport and take them to houses and flats and force them to work in prostitution.
“Usually [the maids’] are threatened so they will not call police.”
In other instances, housemaids work for their sponsor for a period of time and are later targeted by trafficking gangs.
“Maids are often lured to run away from their sponsor with promises of a better life and more money. But then they find themselves forced into prostitution,” Al Murr said.
“There has been a reduction in the instances of this crime and number of victims, but still we want to put an end to this.”
The newspaper cited figures provided by Colonel Abdul Rahman bin Shafi, director of Dubai Police’s General Department of Organised Crime, which showed UAE authorities recorded 37 human trafficking victims in 2012, of which 13 were maids.
In 2013, the number dropped to 13 victims, including four maids. Last year six cases were reported, of which three were maids. The average age of victims was 21-years-old.
In July, a man was jailed for five years for luring an Indonesian maid from her sponsor and forcing her into prostitution.
It was reported at the time that the 31-year-old maid absconded from her sponsor after being promised a better job, but was taken to a flat where she and three others were beaten up and threatened until they agreed to work as a prostitute.
The woman worked for two weeks and then managed to escape from the flat.
To tackle the issue, Dubai Police has launched a campaign to raise awareness of trafficking scams among recruitment agencies and local communities.
As part of the campaign, Dubai Police officials are to visit 111 recruitment offices across Dubai and distribute information pamphlets in nine languages among those arriving at Dubai’s airports.
Additionally, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs will help to spread awareness among domestic workers seeking employment in the UAE.
Dubai Police has also promised that trafficked housemaids will not be prosecuted, 7Days reported, as fear of being arrested for prostitution or absconding from sponsorship is one of the main reasons trafficked housemaids do not seek help.
In some cases, the newspaper said, their passports are confiscated and they find themselves trapped in the UAE.
The campaign will continue for two years and its success will be monitored.
Saeed Al Ghafli, assistant undersecretary for Federal National Council Affairs, as saying the campaign is part of a national strategy to combat human trafficking and prevent “debt slavery” – where workers are forced to work off their debts to recruitment agencies that bring them to the UAE.