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 Wednesday 03 October 2007
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UAE-PAKISTAN: Gov't steps up efforts to help former child jockeys

Photo: Salma Zulfiqar/IRIN
Child jockeys are now banned in the UAE
ABU DHABI, 30 April 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations Children Agency (UNICEF) and the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mauritania, and Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding last week for a second and expanded phase of their programme to assist and compensate all children formerly involved in camel racing in the UAE.

[Watch IRIN video clip on the robots replacing child camel jockeys.]

Dr Ayman Abu Laban, UNICEF representative for Gulf countries, said the two-year phase will help the children’s families “have better means of caring for their children and have some livelihood projects that can improve their income”.

Until 2005, hundreds of children from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mauritania and Sudan were recruited into the centuries-old Arab sport of camel racing as jockeys because of their low weight and height, so as to make the camels run faster. As a result, many children suffered injuries including broken legs and hands from falling off camels, which can run at up to 30kph.

In May 2005, UNICEF signed an agreement with the UAE to repatriate children formerly involved in camel racing and ensure that they are rehabilitated into their societies. This involves giving the children access to education and a normal family life, which they were previously denied.

In June 2005, the UAE banned the use of camel jockeys under the age of 18. Violators face jail terms of up to three years and/or a fine of 50,000 dirhams (US $13,670).

In the first phase of a joint initiative between the UAE and UNICEF, child camel jockeys were identified and repatriated to their countries of origin. To date, more than 1,000 child jockeys have been repatriated, mainly to Pakistan, according to UAE officials.

''The idea is to give back to these children some of what they’ve missed from their childhood.''
The second phase involves rehabilitating and reintegrating these children in the home countries. In December 2006, the UAE government allocated US $9 million for this rehabilitation process.

“The integration includes providing the basic services for these children: health services, education services and protection services,” said Abu Laban. “The idea is to give back to these children some of what they’ve missed from their childhood. At the same time, to give their families a better means of livelihood so they don’t have to send children for further exploitation by child traffickers.”


see also
Camel racing continues to be child free

Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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VIDEO: Until 2005, young boys from countries such as Pakistan and Sudan suffered hardship as camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates. They now have been released and sent home. In their place, remote control robot jockeys race the ships of the desert. - Play video (Media Player)
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.