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Type of document: News
Topic: Policy and Planning
Trafficking patterns
Geographic descriptors: Pakistan
Language: English
Publisher: Pakistan Link—Islamabad
Date of publication: 4 November 2004
Long Abstract: "They sleep in hot crowded huts made from corrugated irons sheets. It's boiling hot out in the desert yet they have to train twice or three times a day. It's hard and painful work and, after a while, the boys have permanent damage to their sexual organs from bouncing up and down on the camel". "During training and in races they often fall down and are badly injured or crushed to death. Because it's illegal to keep underage jockeys they never receive medical treatment and some of them die very painful deaths. Their bodies are just buried out in the desert in unmarked graves". Ansar Burney says the Rulers and Sheikhs of the ruling families own most of the camel camps. The trafficking of young children for forced labour is one of the fastest growing areas in international crime. A study by the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust International pointed out that child trafficking is not new but it is a current practice in most of the Middle East and Arab region. It has, however, gathered considerably momentum over the past few years. The use of children as jockeys in UAE from Pakistan, however, dates back to early 70's. There are estimated 30,000 active racing camels and about 17 racetracks throughout the UAE. Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, which are the centers of this activity, have five of the main stadiums near the Rulers Palaces. The high-risk areas for child trafficking are Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Southern Punjab, as well as some parts of Sindh and Baluchistan. It is the work of international networks that have made it a sophisticated and well-organised human trafficking industry in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Ethiopia, Sudan and other poor countries. It has become a means to earn a living for those criminals who torture the lives of these innocent children and gain pleasure from their tears and cursing. Camel racing in the UAE is an old sport but they do not using there own children as jockeys. During his work and research over several years on this particular issue Mr. Burney never found any Arab child being used as a jockey. Why is trafficking of children so popular? The root causes are multiple and complex. Some are obvious such as extreme levels of poverty. It is far easier to persuade parents to part with their children when if they don't sell one or two of their children they will all die of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and ignorance. Inadequate legislation and weak enforcement of related laws also contribute heavily to the problem. Greedy organized groups have made this into a business at the expense of the lives of these children. The trafficking of children for use as camel jockeys is strictly prohibited by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and by ILO Conventions 29, 138 and 182. All of these laws have been ratified by the UAE but the problem is still growing at an alarming rate. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and also the Chairman of the Emirates Camel Racing Federation promulgated Order No.1/6/266 on 22 July 2002, which prohibits children under 15 or weighing less than 45kg from being employed in camel racing. It also specifies that all camel jockeys must have proof of their age through their passports and be issued with a medical certificate by the Camel Racing Federation. The minister announced that the ban would come into effect on 1 September 2002. A fine of 20,000 Durham's ($ 5,500) will be imposed for a first offence and a second offence will lead to a ban from camel racing for one year. A prison sentence of three months along with a fine of 20,000 Durham's will be imposed for subsequent offences. During the last 9 months hundreds of children were deported and repatriated from the UAE, Muscat, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab and Middle East countries after working for more than two and three years as camel jockeys. Recently the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust International has made a video documentary film of more than 24 hours with a hidden video camera on the plight of these unfortunate children. The children are attached to the camels back with Velcro fastenings but so rough is the ride that many of them fall off. One of the 'advantages' of using children as jockeys is that their terrified cries make the camels run even faster. Many of the child jockeys have been kidnapped from their villages in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Some have been bought from impoverished families by agents. Others are lured from home with promises to their families that they will be employed as domestic servants in cities in their own countries. In one recent case, a woman posing as the mother of three boys and two girls aged between two and seven was arrested at Islamabad airport in Pakistan. The children were allegedly being taken to Dubai to serve as camel jockeys. Ansar Burney said that in Bangladesh reuniting the children with their families is a difficult task.Many of these children were trafficked at a very early age - perhaps between one and a half and five - and often cannot recognize their parents. Some can no longer even speak their mother tongue.
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