Human Trafficking in the UAE

The UAE is a crucial participant in the international effort to combat human trafficking. With the passage of Federal Law 51 in 2006, the UAE became the first nation in the region to establish a specific anti-human-trafficking law. According to the legislation, human trafficking entails all types of sexual exploitation and using others for purposes such as prostitution, servitude, forced labour, organ trafficking, coercive service, enslavement, begging, and behaviours similar to slavery. A person is also subject to penalty under the law if they are aware of a human trafficking occurrence but fail to disclose it. The law also supports and protects victims and bystanders while bringing attention to offences related to human trafficking.

Offenders must pay a minimum fine of AED 100,000 and serve a minimum sentence of five years in jail. UAE updated the law in 2013 to comply with the Palermo Protocol, which the UAE adopted in 2009. This protocol aims to prevent, suppress, and punish human trafficking, notably that of women and children. To increase the law’s support and protection of victims and witnesses, it was further updated in February 2015.

To ensure the efficient enforcement of Federal Law 51, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT) was founded by a Cabinet resolution in 2007. There are 18 members of the Committee from various municipal and federal organizations. To combat the threat of trafficking, NCCHT has created a five-point approach comprising five main components: prevention, prosecution, punishment, protection, and promotion of global collaboration.

Labour Trafficking

Due to the UAE’s reliance on migrant labour, most of whom are from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, “approximately 90% of the over nine million-strong population of the UAE consist of foreign nationals,” according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The UAE manages a sizable number of foreign workers via the kafala system.

One of the two main types of human trafficking in the United Arab Emirates is labour trafficking. Through Federal Law No. 51 of 2006, the government made trafficking for forced labour and prostitution crimes that are punishable by fines, prison terms, and deportation for non-citizen offenders. However, the legislation is not strictly enforced against labour trafficking. The Emirati government considers signals of labour trafficking as labour difficulties. It metes out lower fines to offenders rather than looking into labour trafficking red flags as potential indicators of human trafficking.

Sex Trafficking

 In response to sex trafficking, the country has been highly engaged in the fight against it. The NCCHT formed The ‘5 Ps’ Approach – Prevention, Prosecution, Punishment, Protection and Promotion – which has been a guiding force for responding to sex trafficking in the country.


Informational pamphlets have been shared on social media by shelters that support victims of sex trafficking. These packages provide information on signs of human trafficking to at-risk groups. A booklet was also posted online by the Federal Public Prosecution. The penalties for individuals who are aware of human trafficking operations but fail to report them are described in this pamphlet.

Prosecution and Punishment

In the United Arab Emirates, human trafficking is a crime under Federal Law No. 51 of 2006. In 19 sex trafficking instances, the UAE prosecuted 54 persons in 2020–2021 and found 15 guilty. The UAE leads North Africa and the Middle East in the number of trafficking convictions, even though the figures are not ostensibly huge. Most penalties in the UAE also included fines, deportation for non-citizen offenders, and jail terms of three years or more.


The Emirati government, religious institutions, hospitals, other institutions and various trafficking hotlines in the country refer victims to shelters. Shelters provide housing, medical and legal services, therapy and education. They also provide victims who are minors with additional support. Support for minors includes separate sleeping arrangements and educational programming tailored to their age level. The shelters also offer continued care after the victim leaves.

After the establishment of the 2006 trafficking law, two major shelters, EWAA Shelter for Women and Children in the country’s capital of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC), opened in 2008 and 2007, respectfully. In 2020-2021, the Emirati government referred 23 sex trafficking victims to shelters, and the Aman Center for Women and Children in Ras Al Khaimah supported 10 additional sex trafficking victims. There are multiple shelters across the UAE, but data collection and reporting on victims and shelters is limited.


The Emirati government runs a 24-hour trafficking hotline that promotes reporting of human trafficking cases by the public. DFWAC, the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) also run trafficking hotlines. Additionally, the MOI operates a phone application where trafficking victims or witnesses can reach the police and submit trafficking reports.

In addition, the NCCHT, Dubai Police, MOI, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and DFWAC have been running training programs and classes about implementing The ‘5 Ps’ Approach in the public safety and judicial sectors. During the NCCHT and Dubai Police’s “Human Trafficking Specialist” program in 2020, representatives from 30 police authorities in the UAE learned how to recognize human trafficking situations and support victims. The MOI’s nine anti-trafficking programs during 2020-2021 taught 918 police officers about how to approach trafficking situations, and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department’s human trafficking classes reached 549 judges and public prosecutors during 2020-2021.

The UAE has struck agreements with numerous nations to exchange best practices for the prevention of human trafficking and improve assistance for victims of this crime because human trafficking typically starts in the victims’ home countries. Along with participating in numerous regional and global initiatives to combat human trafficking, the UAE frequently raises concerns with the Charter Committee of the Arab Human Rights Commission.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons has already visited the UAE, where they have praised the success of the country’s anti-human trafficking program.