UAE: Kashmir Women lured into trafficking

Every other individual dreams of visiting or working abroad, for many it is still a far-sighted thought while others try to achieve it at all costs or are often preyed on doing so. Kashmir is known to be a vulnerable place for people not just to live but also to work, especially for women it marks a difficult hurdle to cross when it comes to looking for work in Kashmir, Being hard due to the state of politics and terrorism in the area, many look for suspected yet easier ways to find marginal work abroad. With many women looking to work in Dubai and other Gulf countries, the easiest way for them to find a stable job abroad in the gulf nations is through private agents, but what seems like a rose-coloured picture is nothing but a phase of deception.

What is Kafala System? 

The Kafala system in the UAE exists to bring immigrants, especially women from small areas from different countries for work at the highest range of fees. What is disturbing about the kafala system is that women are lured from difficult backgrounds to look for decent jobs such as that of a paramedic abroad. These are generally women lured by agents from the hectic living conditions of Kashmir who are brought to Dubai on the pretext of providing them decent work of their choice and will be given a decent wage. However, the chaotic truth behind this entire process is that these women are brought to UAE but are then forced into human and sex trafficking.

These women are lied to about their visas and provided with tourist visas for a month instead of a professional visa. What’s more horrifying is that these women are then contacted by another agent in UAE and are duped to live in unhygienic rooms with many other women who are victims of the same. These women are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world or with their families. They are deprived of basic human rights and connections. After some time with hopelessness and fear of the agents, they are either forced into domestic work or sex work. 

One such story is of Nasrullah who comes from a troubled and unsafe space for work in Kashmir, she was lured by an agent to work in Dubai as a paramedic as she had a year of experience in the same, but was skeptical of her agent due to the application of tourist visa.

However, she disregarded her gut feeling and went ahead with the process to stay in Dubai for a month on a tourist visa but was forced to live with many women in a single room and duped into domestic work where she, fortunately, got a chance to contact her family from a hospital and told them about her ordeal. After this, she threatened the agent by filing a police complaint and managed to get a return ticket to her hometown. While Nasrullah was fortunate enough to get out of the hellhole many other women are not so much and are stuck in the deep sucking hellhole. 

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UAE’s response to the Kafala System

UAE is heavily dependent on migrant workers, 90 per cent of its economy is dependent on the working of the migrant workers, thus, the kafala system is commonly known in the place. However, the Kafala system with its loopholes has given unfortunate opportunities to many agents to continue the existence of human trafficking and sex trafficking in the country.

Although UAE has set to bring reforms inclusive of labour’s wage rights and to minimize human trafficking by controlling the supply of immigrant workers through public and official agents and stop the human trafficking via private agents. But these efforts have shown to be the bare minimum from the government’s end as human trafficking is still taking place through public agents as well.

Human trafficking is large regarding the trafficking of women for sex work. UAE does have laws against human trafficking but is neither strict nor focused on in the past. It wasn’t until recent years that UAE started paying attention to the matter and found the numbers of human and sex trafficking increasing year by year. 

Another disappointing part for immigrant workers in UAE is that they have minimum to least human rights, and labour rights, they don’t have the right to protest, form a union or ask for as little as higher wages. The ones who protested and asked for liberated rights suspectly disappeared. The Commission set up to look after the crimes of human trafficking are trying to bring reforms but as the labourers and workers lack labour rights, the reforms are not much hopeful or to be expected. All the migrant labourers are deprived of labour rights, they are provided with benefits and initiatives including housing and free education.

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