UN helps child camel jockeys from United Arab Emirates reintegrate in their homelands

UN helps child camel jockeys from United Arab Emirates reintegrate in their homelands

It might be impossible to thread a camel through the proverbial eye of a needle, but the United Nations is helping to get under-age child-jockeys off the backs of camels and reintegrate them into their home communities.

In May 2005, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to return such children, the vast majority of them under 10, to their countries of origin such as Bangladesh, Mauritania, Pakistan and Sudan, and yesterday the UAE allocated $9 million to help reintegrate former jockeys who left the country before the accord came into force.

“We are happy to be working with the UAE on this very important initiative,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said. “The UAE’s decision to expand and extend its cooperation to include former camel jockeys who left the country before, or outside of the legal system put in place for repatriation and rehabilitation, shows their high level of commitment to the wellbeing of these children.”

In 2005, the UAE Government passed a federal law prohibiting the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 as jockeys. Violators face jail terms of up to three years and/or a fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13,670).

To date, over 1,000 former camel jockeys, 93 per cent of them under the age of 10, have been returned to their countries and reunited with their families. UNICEF continues to work with the children and provides follow up to ensure their successful reintegration.

“I see this decision as a real opportunity for all the former jockeys, to get back some hope that will help them to reintegrate into their communities and benefit from educational and vocational training programs that will advance their future,” Ms. Salah said of the latest allocation.