[ Human Trafficking, Country-by-Country ]

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Tier 2) Extracted in part  from the U.S. State Dept 2023 TIP Report

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore the United Arab Emirates remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included reporting the number of alleged trafficking cases investigated for the first time since 2012, including labor trafficking cases; and prosecuting and convicting more traffickers, including labor traffickers.  The government identified significantly more victims and referred them to care.  The government signed an agreement to provide free health care to trafficking victims residing at its shelter in Abu Dhabi.  It expanded mandatory enrollment in the Wage Protection System (WPS) to certain professions of domestic workers and enacted a new domestic worker law that included additional protections.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Officials did not regularly consider labor law violations with trafficking indicators as potential trafficking crimes, rather addressing them administratively instead of through criminal proceedings, which undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable and weakened deterrence.  The government did not consistently screen vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators, which may have led to penalization of some victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked.  The majority of domestic workers remained excluded from the WPS, rendering them vulnerable to wage theft – a key trafficking indicator – without proper oversight.  Nonexistent and weak penalties for passport confiscation did not adequately deter this violation and the pervasiveness of this practice may have left some workers vulnerable to exploitation and potentially trafficking.

Prioritized Recommendations

Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers of forced labor crimes, specifically of migrant workers, including domestic servitude, under the anti-trafficking law.

Increase efforts to identify and provide protective services for labor trafficking victims.

Expand trainings to officials across all emirates to better identify potential trafficking cases that originate as labor violations.

Strengthen efforts to punish potential forced labor crimes criminally instead of administratively and refer cases with trafficking indicators, such as complaints of non-payment of wages, passport confiscation, and restriction of movement, for investigation as potential trafficking crimes.

Regularly employ standard procedures for victim identification and referral to quality care among foreign workers, particularly women in commercial sex, domestic workers who have fled their employers, and other vulnerable documented and undocumented migrants to ensure authorities do not penalize victims.

Continue to expand the mandatory use of the WPS for all domestic worker professions to ensure protection from wage theft.

Execute implementing regulations for and strengthen enforcement of the domestic worker law that expands legal protections for domestic workers.

Criminalize passport confiscation with deterrent penalties and ensure officials are trained to consider passport confiscation as a trafficking indicator.