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UAE to open shelters for victims of human trafficking

The United Arab Emirates will set up shelters for victims of human trafficking, a regional problem highlighted by the United States and international rights groups, the local press reported yesterday.
The centres will provide shelter, health care and social support to women and child victims and will operate under the umbrella of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, the English-language Gulf News said.
"(The UAE) strongly supports international efforts to fight human trafficking," Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahayan, also chairman of the Red Crescent Authority, was quoted as saying.
In 2006, the oil-rich UAE introduced stiff penalties including life sentences to combat human trafficking.
And in July last year, two Indian nationals were jailed for 15 years in the first punishment under the legislation aimed at cleaning up the Gulf state's human rights record. Several more suspects have since gone on trial on human trafficking charges.
The US State Department human trafficking report in 2006 upgraded the UAE from the "Tier 3" of worst offenders to "Tier 2 Watch List" comprising countries which are making "significant" efforts to deal with the problem.
But it described the UAE as "a destination country for men, women and children trafficked from South and East Asia, eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East for involuntary servitude and for sexual exploitation," saying the government was not doing enough to combat either.
The UAE maintained its rank in the 2007 edition of the report, while other Gulf Arab countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — were downgraded to Tier 3, joining Saudi Arabia.
In 2005, the UAE banned the use of children as camel jockeys and has funded the repatriation of child jockeys to their home countries in Asia and Africa as well as their rehabilitation.
Hundreds of thousands of foreigners work in the UAE, where expatriates make up nearly 85 percent of the 5.6-million population, according to a recent unofficial study.

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