There are an estimated 15,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United Arab Emirates which acts as a destination and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Foreign workers recruited globally account for over 95% of the country’s private workforce. Some are subjected to practices indicative to trafficking such as passport retention, non-payment of wages and substandard food and housing. Women travelling willingly to the UAE to work as domestic workers, massage therapists, beauticians, hotel cleaners, or elsewhere in the service sector, are sometimes subjected to forced labour or sex trafficking after arrival.
At the end of May 2001, Masuma, 17 years old, was sent to Dubai by Siddique Ali, a local dalal. She was never picked up at the airport, instead she was forced to remain there, providing sexual services to pay for a ticket back home.
I went through Siddique Ali. No one came to get me at the airport. I lived hell. In my 17 years of life, I never suffered so much. I had taken some food with me (gur, tsira) which I ate. Many girls were there, like prisoners. Among them, a majority was Bangladeshi. The police maltreated us.
Many Bangladeshi men asked me to follow them, they would give me work but I refused. I was so sad and so depressed. What would happen to me if I entered that country? Who would give me a ticket to come back? I had no phone number I could call, no one to whom I could ask for help.
Seeing me like this one policeman told me: "If you want to go back to Bangladesh, if you want to earn, you can do this work in a secret place and buy your ticket". I reluctantly did as he said. Men came to me, some were Bangladeshi, and others were different nationalities. I did not need to know about them. All I needed was money. I was so angry but in this way I managed to return. It cost 15, 000 taka for my ticket. I thank god I was able to get away, even for this price. It could have been worst.
I received between 25 and 35 Dirham per customer exceptionally I got 60. They paid the police and the police paid me. One policeman kept my money. He would tell me how much I had earned everyday. I started this work 3 days after my arrival. The sex work went on in a back room arranged by the police. The police fixed the clients and used me as well.
When I came back, my family was astonished to see me. I looked in bad health and my mother cried. For 27 days, I could not eat nor wash properly. I could not do what is necessary (cleaning) after sex. I was also very depressed.
With my father, I went back to Siddique Ali. He said I had bad luck. My employer had gone to Saudi Arabia and could not come to pick me up. He wanted to appease me: -
"Don't scream, just be patient. I will send you again for less money. If you make too much noise, your reputation will suffer."
He took away my passport. He spoke so nicely and behaved so well that, no matter how angry I was inside, in front of him I could not speak. I think this man knows magic. Now, I am in this situation, still depressed. We have to depend on Siddique Ali.
Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub