ABU DHABI, 16th February, 2019 (WAM) — Since 2009 and up to 2019, Ewa’a Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking have received more than 290 victims of human trafficking.
”In 2018, the shelters received 27 victims – 15 men, eight women and four children – who were transferred from law enforcement agencies, social support centres, houses of worship, embassies, and hospitals,” said Sara Shuheil, Executive Director of Shelters, in an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
”The Ewaa Shelters for victims of human trafficking were established in 2008 within the framework of the UAE’s efforts to combat human trafficking and support human rights and to provide safe refuge and support to victims of human trafficking. The first Ewa’a shelter was opened in Abu Dhabi in 2008 to receive women and child victims of human trafficking. The second shelter, receiving male victims, was opened in 2013. More shelters are expected to open in other emirates to expand the work of this initiative all over the UAE,” Shuheil explained.
Shuheil noted that the women victims were from different nationalities and could stay in the shelters from one month to six months before they depart for their home countries.
She stated that the UAE is affected by this crime and not an exporting country in any way. ”The UAE, as a committed and responsible member of the international community, has been proactive in the global fight to combat human trafficking and is making significant efforts to combat this crime. Federal Law No. 51 of 2006 as amended by Federal law No.1 of 2015 was the start of the UAE’s official initiatives to combat human trafficking locally and to enhance the UAE’s role in the international efforts aimed at eliminating human trafficking crimes.” According to the law, whoever commits any of the following shall be deemed a perpetrator of a human trafficking crime: a. Selling persons, offering persons for selling or buying, or promising the same.
b. Soliciting persons, employing, recruiting, transferring, deporting, harbouring, receiving, receiving or sending the same whether within the country or across the national borders thereof, by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability the person for the purpose of exploitation.
c. Giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation of the latter.
2. The following shall be deemed human trafficking, even if the same does not incorporate the use of any of the means provided in the previous paragraph: a. Recruiting a child, transferring, deporting, harbouring or receiving the same for the purpose of exploitation.
b. Selling a child, offering the same for selling or buying.
”When they come to the shelters, victims are in a traumatic psychological state and we rehabilitate them so as to make them feel confident and safe and live a balanced life. We rebuild the victim’s psychological health and ensuring their safety,” she added.
She stated that the hotline 800SAVE operates on all seven days, in multiple languages, to assist victims of human trafficking. In 2018, the shelters received more than 300 calls enquiring about human trafficking assistance services, domestic violence and voluntary work.
”When receiving victims, the shelters abide by specific procedures which do not allow anyone to join directly. Victims are often received from places of worship that register victims who turn to them. They are also transferred from police stations, after conducting initial investigations, from embassies, the Emirates Red Crescent, hospitals, similar centres, via the hot line, or concerned authorities. Before receiving the victim, the shelters study the case, in co-ordination with specialised authorities, according to specific physical, psychological, social and legal standards. The shelters scientifically and systematically verify whether the case falls under the human trafficking category and whether the victim deserves to join the shelter and receive the necessary care,” she further explained.
”The shelters provide victims with necessary health, psychological and legal care through a team of medical specialists, psychology experts, and legal advisors to help them overcome their ordeal and return to good psychological health. The psychological state of victims is mostly extremely sensitive, and requires specialised care.” According to her, victims undergo two kinds of treatment programmes – psychological rehabilitation through arts or play and social rehabilitation through professional and vocational programmes.
”With continued psychological support, victims are able to take up educational, occupational and recreational courses which help them overcome their experiences and return to normal life prior to leaving for their homeland. The experts at the shelter provide a range of recreational, educational and training opportunities to make the best use of leisure time,” she said.
”Financial assistance is also offered to victims departing to their home countries depending on their individual cases whether single, married or widows,” she said.
She added that the shelters spread awareness inside the UAE society and other countries which have high levels of human trafficking crimes. This is done through local and international initiatives in partnership with local partners, stakeholders and the United Nations. Shelters also participate in local exhibitions to deliver their educational and awareness messages.
H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), donated a land for building the shelters and offered AED1.5 million in 2011 in support of the victims.