The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the global epicenters for human trafficking, with 95 percent of its private workforce comprising vulnerable and easily exploitable low-income migrant workers from mostly India, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh. Bear in mind that 90 percent of the country’s 10 million population are foreign nationals, that is the native population and citizens are only 1 million.
From the moment migrant workers arrive at either Abu Dhabi or Dubai’s international airport, their nightmare begins, with a majority of new arrivals’ passports typically confiscated in violation of international law, a deliberate move by their employer to further entrench their slavery by denying freedom of movement within or out of the country.
They are then forced to sign employment contracts in a language they’re unable to read and thus agreeing to conditions and wages far worse and far lower than they had been promised by recruiters in their home countries, with many not paid at all as result of having their salaries garnished by their employer to offset housing, food, and transport costs.
The UAE is a country built by migrant slaves, mostly populated by migrant slaves, and ruled by Emirati slave masters.
Call it forced labor or low-paid slavery or straight up slavery or whatever, but what’s undeniable is the fact that the UAE is a country built by migrant slaves, mostly populated by migrant slaves, and ruled by Emirati slave masters.
The majority of these low and underpaid laborers work in construction and domestic help positions, but tens of thousands of women are also trafficked into the UAE’s burgeoning sex trade, with Dubai considered one of the sex tourist capitals of the world.
“Visiting Dubai is like sitting on the sidelines to a gang rape,” observes Amalia Rosenblum for the Israeli English language newspaper Haaretz.
“Beneath the glittering facade of a paradise in the desert lurks a cruel and lethal system of recruitment, transportation, transfer, kidnaping and defrauding of human beings – mostly women – by means of the threat of force, or the actual use of force, as well as other types of coercion.”
Some estimates have as many as 45,000 sex workers, forced and voluntary, in Dubai alone, although many human rights experts believe the overwhelming majority to be coerced and often lured to the country on the promise of alternative employment.
Some estimates have as many as 45,000 sex workers, forced and voluntary, in Dubai alone, although many human rights experts believe the overwhelming majority to be coerced.
“Their traffickers will employ many tactics to force these women to work, often locking the victims in small rooms without food or water, verbally harassing, and physically beating the women until they break down and agree to meet with clients,” observes Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) in its report titled “Living as Commodities: Human and Sex Trafficking in the GCC.”
In an alarming revelation, the Israeli news agency Ynet News has reported that Israeli men are flying in groups to Dubai to “sleep with as many prostitutes as possible” barely one month after the UAE opened its airspace to Israel.
“It happens in the luxury hotels of Dubai, in the nightclubs, everywhere. Outside the hotels, people walk around with brochures and shove you in the hand,” an Israel businessman identified as Benny told Ynet News.
“They already recognize the groups of Israelis, approach them with options of a photo gallery on an iPad or mobile. Everything is very open, as if it were a pizza menu with toppings,” he said.
In other words, the UAE has given the Palestinian people absolutely nothing in exchange for its so-called “peace deal,” one that encourages Israel to steal more Palestinian land, while allowing Israeli men to abuse enslaved Asian and African women in the UAE.
Nothing about this sordid episode should be read or interpreted as breaking news or new information, however, as both the United States government and European Parliament have long called out the UAE, among others, for failing to implement even basic and rudimentary level measures to prevent human trafficking.
“Countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lebanon are considered to be the worst offenders,” reads a statement made by the EU Parliament earlier this year. “The most alarming development that we have witnessed is the trafficking of women for slavery,” from various regions including some European countries, such as Moldova.
Human rights groups have urged the UAE and other global human trafficking hotspots to enforce national and international laws directed towards protecting the rights of migrant workers.
Human rights groups have urged the UAE and other global human trafficking hotspots to enforce national and international laws directed towards protecting the rights of migrant workers and to address destructive and exploitative conditions that contribute to the scourge of human trafficking, including passport confiscation or revocation, withholding of salaries, use of threats or other coercive measures, and denial of freedom of movement.
According to ADHRB, the UAE and other GCC countries should abolish the kafala system of sponsorship-based employment and establish a justiciable system for migrant workers; introduce and enforce labor laws specifically for migrant workers, inclusive of domestic workers, that comply with international standards of fair labor practice and safe working conditions; and effectively eliminate all child labor, forced labor, forced prostitution, and human trafficking practices in the region.
The human rights group also implores the United Nations, European Union, and United States to pressure the UAE into adopting and implementing international labor standards and human trafficking law.
Until that time, the UAE will remain a global epicenter for human trafficking, an awful reality now made significantly worse by the new arrival of thousands of Israeli sex tourists.