South Asian Children Reportedly Trafficked for UAE Camel Races

Reportedly trafficking foreign and impoverished children for the purpose of camel racing is a common practice in the United Arab Emirates, where at least 50% of the children trafficked are from West Bengal in India. According to a new report, young boys are preferred to be camel jockeys because they are considered light and speedy and are frequently underfed before major races. Although they are strapped to the camels before races, they are liable to be thrown off and trampled due to the camels’ speed. Much of the trafficking occurs as a result of the purported economic benefits. In response, the government in West Bengal has been developing an online trafficking portal so that missing children can be tracked more easily.

Participants in the camel races also come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, and other African countries. Although Pakistan ratified the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance in 2002, trafficking to the UAE is very common in certain locations as well. Former camel jockeys often return to their hometowns with mental problems after years of brutal abuse. At the United Nations Global Forum to Fight Human Trafficking in 2008, $1.4 million was demanded in compensation from the U.A.E., which sent checks to Pakistani families. However, many cases are still unresolved, and families remain unpaid.


Margaret Bailey is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB.