Backdated compensation ignores forgotten child camel jockeys

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12 May 2009

In the wake of the decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to backdate compensation for former Bangladeshi child camel jockeys, Anti-Slavery International calls for the UAE to explain the whereabouts of the nearly 2,000 unaccounted for child camel jockeys who have not yet returned to their families from the Gulf state.

The backdated compensation of $1.43m will be paid to 879 former child camel jockeys who returned home from the Gulf state after January 1993 but before official repatriations, carried out by the UAE and UNICEF, began in 2005/6.

However, Anti-Slavery International is concerned that according to the UAE’s own estimates, of the 3,000 child camel jockeys identified in 2005, only 1,100 children have since returned to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “While the backdating of compensation is to be commended it is important that the UAE do not now consider the issue over. By their own calculations, they have been able to repatriate just over a third of the child camel jockeys they originally identified. This is a matter of great concern, and we would like to know what steps the Government of the UAE are taking to rescue and repatriate the remaining 2,000 children.

“We would also be keen to see backdated compensation rolled out to the former child camel jockeys who returned to other countries, such as Pakistan and Sudan, before 2005/6. Furthermore, adequate provision must be made to guarantee that the full amount of designated compensation reaches each child and that all children who receive compensation are provided with financial advice to help them invest the money wisely.

“It is also important to stress that children have been used in camel racing across the Gulf, including in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Until the entire region takes steps to rescue and repatriate children, then there is no guarantee that the practice has ended.”

Anti-Slavery International along with partners, including the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA), campaigned to end the trafficking and use of children in camel races in the Gulf, which influenced the UAE’s decision in 2005 to ban the practice.

The tireless campaigning of the BNWLA was also central to the UAE’s decision to extend compensation to children returning before 2005/6. The BNWLA run shelters across Bangladesh for children, including former camel jockeys. The children are looked after at the shelters until their families have been identified and both children and families have been helped to readjust to the child’s return from the Gulf.

Salma Ali, Lawyer and Executive Director of BNWLA, said: “BNWLA suspects that despite the progress already made, some children remain in camel farms in the UAE.

“The compensation must be handled with the utmost care. We are facing enormous problems reintegrating these boys back into their families and society as a whole. They have lost all hope and the damage done, physically and emotionally, is irreparable for some.

“More needs to be done in the Gulf to stamp out this inhuman practice once and for all. More is also needed to improve the life for everyone in these communities of origin to help ensure that offers of compensation do not in fact encourage yet more children to be trafficked in the future.”

For further press information contact: Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International Press Officer, on 44 (0)20 7501 8934



  • Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest human rights organisation and campaigns for the eradication of slavery, exposing current cases, supporting local organisations to release the minimum 12.3 million people in slavery, and the implementation of international laws against slavery.