The government increased its prevention efforts. During the reporting year, the government signed Federal Law No. 10 of 2017 on domestic workers, which included the right for employees to retain personal documents, sign standardized contracts with unequivocally designated working conditions, access specialized tribunals for settling workplace grievances, and observe mandatory time off. It also stipulated in-home inspections on the basis of complaints or reasonable evidence of law violations. Under the law’s provisions, a recruitment agency or person who hindered law enforcement, anyone who disclosed information unveiled in an investigation, or anyone who facilitated the abandonment of a domestic worker may be jailed for a minimum of six months and ordered to pay a 10,000 to 100,000 AED ($2,720 to $27,230) fine. However, many of the law’s articles were not fully enacted, and implementing regulations remained under development at the close of the reporting period. Furthermore, the existing government-mandated standardized contract for domestic workers did not conform to the new labor law. As domestic workers continued to transition from falling under the Ministry of the Interior’s authority to that of MOHRE, new public-private partnerships, known as “Tadbeer Centers,” began operation in the reporting year with the mandate to regulate the recruitment and training of domestic workers, educate them on their legal rights, resolve employer-employee disputes, and verify worker accommodations for compliance with domestic worker law minimum standards.
During the year, the government continued implementation of three ministerial labor decrees passed in 2016 and intended to reduce forced labor practices among private sector workers. The government continued its monitoring and inspection program for private sector manual laborers, including automated electronic monitoring of salary payments for 95 percent of the private sector workforce via the Wage Protection System (WPS), identifying and settling delayed wage payments for an unknown number of workers, and carrying out tens of thousands of labor-related inspections. Within the private sector, the government continued to investigate workers’ complaints of unpaid wages through a dispute resolution process and the WPS, which were intended to ensure workers were paid according to their contracts, and employers were punished with administrative and financial penalties for failing to comply. Workers filed thousands of labor complaints through government-operated smartphone applications, telephone hotlines, websites, email, and formally with MOHRE offices and mobile units; violations routinely resulted in fines and suspended permits to hire new workers. However, domestic worker salaries were not required to be paid via the WPS and, coupled with cultural norms and the lack of legal provisions requiring inspections of domestic worker accommodations, wage payment and work hour abuses, among other acts indicative of forced labor, continued and left domestic workers at risk of exploitation. The government did not enforce a prohibition on employers withholding workers’ passports, which remained a pervasive problem, especially for domestic workers.
The government continued to carry out its national action plan to address human trafficking, driven by the NCCHT. The plan focused on prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment, promotion of international cooperation, redress, rehabilitation, reintegration, and capacity building. Government shelter staff partnered with art galleries for visual art exhibits that showcased art made by trafficking victims, to both increase awareness and raise funds for other victims. The government also disseminated anti-trafficking awareness publications in 14 languages, which targeted at-risk communities and reached an unknown number of vulnerable people. It installed informational noticeboards at airports across the UAE targeting specific terminals based upon nationalities, and utilized radio broadcasting to increase general awareness on trafficking risks. Dubai Police and representatives from the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) commenced the second year of a five-year anti-trafficking awareness plan during the reporting period targeting victims, witnesses, staff, and government authorities. Shelters engaged in a program for trafficking survivors that trained them to educate vulnerable groups on the risks of trafficking when they return to their respective home countries and communities. DFWAC partnered with companies such as L’Oreal and Benefit Cosmetics to implement employment training programs for the shelter’s clients. In 2018, Dubai authorities developed a labor guideline handbook, available in Arabic, Urdu, and English.
During the reporting year, the government and an independent public opinion survey center also released the findings of a public opinion survey on awareness of human trafficking, ability to identify victims, and knowledge about official procedures to generate awareness and spark community debate. Interior ministry officials targeted labor camps for strategic outreach and distributed more than one million brochures on trafficking during 2017. In January 2018, the government signed an MOU with Thailand to combat trafficking crimes stemming from the labor-sending country and in September 2017, it signed an MOU with the Philippines that included steps to enhance labor cooperation and recruitment transparency between the two countries. It also had in place preventative MOUs with Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, and India. The MOHRE continued an extensive labor inspection program, conducting tens of thousands of housing and work site inspections using a team of full-time labor inspectors, in addition to seven dedicated anti-trafficking inspectors. Dubai Police also continued the Suitable Accommodation Program, conducting unannounced labor camp inspections to enforce compliance with the 12-person per room maximum occupancy rule. In 2017, the MOHRE trained 190 inspectors on trafficking and launched mobile outreach units that reached approximately 1,100 workers. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts in the UAE. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation maintained provision of workshops and awareness programs on human trafficking for its diplomatic personnel.