By Andy Sambidge
Minister welcomes US state dep't praise, says 'several challenges' still to be met.
The UAE said on Wednesday that it was committed to stamping out human trafficking as it opened two more shelters for victims in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.
UAE officials said combating human trafficking and protecting victims remained a "top priority on its national agenda".
Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and chair of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said "several challenges" remained, adding it would continue to work with international partners to fight the crime.
At least 43 cases of human trafficking were registered in the UAE during 2009, compared to 20 cases in 2008, a statistic he said that reflected the country's progress since federal laws were introduced in late 2006 on the issue, news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.
His comments came two days after the US State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report noted the UAE's progress in addressing the problem of human trafficking.
In a 373-page report, the department said that employers in the Gulf states exploit the widely used ‘kafala’ system to abuse workers and named Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as the region’s worst offenders.
It added that the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Egypt were each assigned a Tier 2 rating, indicating they have made significant efforts to tackle human trafficking.
Gargash added: "The UAE welcomes recognition of the country's anti-trafficking efforts, constructive criticism, as well as collaborative efforts.
"This year's TIP Report takes into account the measurable progress on the ground in the UAE's concerted fight against this crime, however the UAE is aware that several challenges still lie ahead and we are committed to continuing our efforts alongside our international partners."
According to the UAE's annual trafficking report released in May, the measures undertaken in 2010 as part of the comprehensive four-pillar strategy include expanding the size and scope of the anti-trafficking committee; establishing a human rights department at the Ministry of Interior and starting a new facility at Dubai Police to monitor and control human trafficking.
The government is set to launch its first public awareness campaign at airports and UAE embassies abroad towards the end of 2010 with the clear message that the UAE maintains a zero tolerance approach to the crime of human trafficking.
Millions of migrants, primarily from Asia and Africa, have short-term employment contracts for blue-collar jobs in the construction, domestic work, and service industries across the Middle East.
Under the ‘kafala’ system, nationals and companies can hire migrant workers who are dependent on their employers for food and shelter.
Many workers complain that agencies or employers confiscate their passports, do not pay them regularly or deduct housing or health costs from their pay.
This is very good news from the UAE, human trafficking is an appalling crime in this day and age. Have'nt we learned anything from the past? Everything possible should be done to eradicate it completely. Offenders of human trafficking rings should receive long prisons sentences (20 years+) and made to do hard manual labour. I am so appalled by human trafficking if it was up to me I'd send the armies in to stop it. Great work UAE, go get them!, and make them pay dearly for their hideous crime.