Dubai is one of the toughest, most well-known centers of modern slavery and human trafficking. 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. The purpose of the system is exploitation for the purpose of prostitution, other types of sexual exploitation, forced labor or employment in conditions of slavery.
In the United Arab Emirates there are over 8 million work migrants, constituting over 95 percent of the country’s private work force. They work for a very low wage in construction, or as servants. Most of these workers are victims of human trafficking or forced labor.
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So a moment before you pack your bags, it’s important to know that the glittering hotels in Dubai, the eye-popping shopping malls and the perfect beaches are built and maintained by people whose basic human rights have been taken way by violent means. They come to the Emirates from countries where they are unable to earn a living (some of the women are fleeing from war-torn regions like Iraq), and in most cases pay high fees in exchange for the right to enter the country.
But from the moment they enter, they are in effect kidnapped and actually become slaves: Their passports are taken away, their “employers” change the contracts unilaterally, they suffer physical and sexual abuse, and the salary promised to them as a lure is not paid. Many women are kidnapped for the sex industry.
Outwardly, the governments of the UAE cluck their tongues and occasionally expel a pimp who is caught, but in fact traffickers in women work under protection of the government, which sells itself as a consumers’ paradise, where human beings are also a consumer good. These widespread abuses are consistently documented. There’s a reason why since 2017 the U.S. State Department has once again acknowledged that the UAE does not meet minimal standards of the fight against human trafficking.
The European Parliament also announced this year – a few months before the festive peace agreement was signed and the festival of tourism and cooperative projects between Israel and the UAE began – that “many countries in the Middle East are not implementing the international standards to fight human trafficking. Countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lebanon are considered to be the worst offenders … The most alarming development that we have witnessed is the trafficking of women for slavery.”
An investigation conducted last year that was broadcast on Greek television exposed the violence and crime taking place with the knowledge of the authorities. Its editors estimated that in Dubai alone 45,000 women are trapped in the prostitution network. Not only women are traded there, but so are many teenage boys, who provide sexual services to clients of prostitution from all over the world, visitors to the “Las Vegas of the Middle East.”
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In other words, one of the main cooperative projects involving Israel and the UAE that has recently begun is the provision of clients of prostitution on the part of Israel, and prostitution services on the part of Dubai. Apparently many of the Israeli men who are traveling to Dubai these days in the guise of businessmen are aware of that. But anyone who is unwilling to collaborate with the exploitation industry should be aware: A trip to Dubai, and certainly work “with Dubai,” is like standing on the sidelines during the course of a gang rape.