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UAE commits $9 million to help former camel jockeys

NEW YORK, 18 December 2006 – UNICEF today welcomed the allocation of $9 million by the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assist former camel jockeys who have returned home to their communities.

In May 2005, UNICEF and the UAE signed a groundbreaking agreement to return children formerly involved in camel racing to their countries of origin and reintegrate them into their communities in nations such as Bangladesh, Mauritania, Pakistan and Sudan.

The initiative was the first programme in the Gulf region to publicly acknowledge the issues of child trafficking and exploitation, and take practical steps to protect children. By strengthening legislation and policies, the programme aims to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children for use in camel racing, and protects and assists young victims.

“We are happy to be working with the UAE on this very important initiative,” said Rima Salah, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “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.”

“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,” she added.

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

To date, over 1,000 former camel jockeys, with 93 per cent being under the age of ten, were successfully returned to their countries and reunited with their families. UNICEF continues to work with the children and provide follow up to ensure their successful reintegration back into their home communities.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Geoffrey Keele, Communication Officer, UNICEF NY : Tel + 212-326-7583; gkeele@unicef.org




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