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DUBAI: Police announce arrests of thousands of pimps, prostitutes

May 14, 2009 |  8:40 am


In a city-state that imports most of its human capital, from upper management to unskilled labor, it's no surprise that sex trafficking and forced prostitution have also flourished alongside (and sometimes inside) Dubai's luxury hotels and glittering skyscrapers.

In December 2007, however, the Dubai police responded by raiding two dozen brothels and detaining hundreds of suspects in the biggest prostitution sting to date.

At the time, Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim told the Associated Press that the Dubai government had "declared war on human trafficking."

Since then, police in Dubai have arrested 2,713 sex workers and 107 female pimps as part of an ongoing campaign against vice, according to a recent report in the Saudi-based Arab News.

“The women pimps run the brothels with an iron fist," said Ali Al Suwaidi, head of the Dubai Police Vice Unit. "They take the women’s passports the minute they arrive in the country and refuse to give them back unless they pay" up to $8,000.

Al Suwaidi went on to say that among the victims was a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl who had been sold to a pimp by her parents and brought into the country on a fake visa.

Although the girl may have aroused sympathy due to her tender age, other women may still face criminal charges. In March, two Ethiopian maids were charged with prostitution even as the court accused another man of forcing them into it.

The problem of trafficking and prostitution is likely to persist until until stricter labor regulations are put in place and enforced. 2009 is not even halfway over, and already there have been a slew of media reports on women being lured into the country with false promises of employment and preyed upon by pimps and unscrupulous authorities, and even children being sold into slavery by their parents.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Residential property sits in the foreground against a backdrop of high-rise construction development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Charles Crowell / Bloomberg News