'UAE has repatriated all camel jockeys'

ABU DHABI — The UAE has repatriated, with the assistance of Unicef, all child camel jockeys to their home countries in Asia and Africa, thus fulfilling its promise to the international community to put an end to the phenomenon.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Fri 22 Sep 2006, 9:31 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:26 PM

"The UAE has closed for good the page of the use of children in camel races. We pledged before the world to end this problem and we have honoured our promise. We are deeply proud of this achievement," said Colonel Najem Al Hosani, director of community police, Abu Dhabi.

"The mission was not easy, but we were determined from the beginning to launch and implement a model initiative to repatriate child camel jockeys to their original countries (Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh and Mauritania) and provide them with care, rehabilitation and assistance,'' he told the closing session of the second coordination meeting of the UAE-Unicef project for protection of child camel jockeys.

The two-day meeting, which ended yesterday, was mainly held to review and assess results and address challenges and obstacles.

"When we met for the first time here 500 days ago, most of you were skeptical, afraid to be involved in the matter and voiced concern that the move might be a mere camouflage or a public relations campaign.....but we made it clear that we were looking for credible partners to help repatriate those children to their homelands and get their rights as well as assistance and rehabilitation," he added.

According to him, the decision was not easy, given the sensitive and complicated nature of the issue but "we succeeded in taking the Unicef as our partner, guide, and observer to ensure the success of the project".

He paid special thanks to the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for issuing a law banning jockeys aged under 16 and weighing less than 45kg (100lb) and to Lt. General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Interior Minister, for his daily follow up of the project.

Dr Omer Abdi, Unicef regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa, termed the UAE pilot initiative as one of the most important worldwide.

''The UAE will remain committed to its agreement with the Unicef and stand ready to offer financial aid to the project's action plans.....we will also press ahead with our efforts to unearth and combat any attempts of smuggling and deception. A law to combat trafficking in persons is expected to be issued shortly."

He lauded Unicef for extending valuable technical support and called on it to put in place the agreed media campaign to explain the UAE's tireless effort to tackle the issue. He admitted that the UAE government and their stakeholders had shown constructive cooperation in implementing the agreement to send those children back to their home countries.

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