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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Waitress job offer trapped Julie in web of deceit

05/15/2009 10:58 PM

Abu Dhabi:  Julie, a victim of trafficking, is recovering after going through traumatic experiences. She is one of the two women rehabilitated and repatriated by EWA'A, said Maitha Ganem Al Mazroui, the coordination and follow up officer at the shelter.

Julie's (name changed to protect identity) problems began after a job offer in Abu Dhabi as a waitress. She was lured by the idea of being able to support her 8-year-old daughter and mother.

Julie's trafficker was a woman, who accompanied her when she came to the UAE.

Upon reaching here all her legal documents were taken away by the trafficker after which she was forced to work as a prostitute.

When she refused, the criminals threatened to kill her daughter and mother until finally Julie succumbed to pressure.

For the five years she engaged in this illegal trade, her family did not know what her real job was.

They kept asking her visit them but she refused, all the while lying about how "busy and hectic" her work was. She finally sought refuge at her church.

The church intimated the authorities and Julie was taken to EWA'A.

Now she's back home with her family.

Fortunately, the story doesn't end here for Julie, rather it is a new beginning.

Abu Dhabi The recently created EWA'A shelter for women and children in the capital aims to help mend lives of abuse victims.

During a recent visit by Gulf News, 15 such victims who went through devastating and traumatising experiences in the hands of human traffickers were receiving counselling at the centre.

Locked up, beaten, sexually exploited and threatened with death, the women were driven to desperation before they reached the shelter.

"For the safety of the inmates, we don't have a sign board outside. Not even those in the neighbourhood know that this is a shelter," said Sara Shuhail, the Executive Director of EWA'A.

"This provides security so that the criminals involved in human trafficking do not try to reach these women who have escaped from them."

The information given by the victims has helped authorities bust gangs and illegally run brothels, which has led to the rescue of more women, she said.

However, the victims are in no way coerced or urged to reveal any information. "They don't need to give us information but most of them do so voluntarily when they realise they are in safe hands. Moreover, they of course have vengeance towards the criminals who put them through a lot of suffering," she added.

The police officers who visit the shelter also turn up in civilian clothing and unmarked cars.

The shelter was set up last year in September under the umbrella of the Red Crescent Authority; however, it only became functional in January this year.

Shuhail said: "We understand that these victims were locked up in flats or other places where they had to either choose to die or to live by the terms of the mafia. They are treated like slaves. One cannot imagine that human beings are capable of such horrifying acts."

"Most of these victims have valid legal documents such as visas but most often the mafia behind their abuse cheated them and snatched these documents, like passports and visas, when they first arrived at the airport. Several of them came here to work as waitresses or as secretaries. They hold different types of work visas."

The shelter, set in a villa, is temporary and can only house up to 30 victims.

But within two years, authorities aim to build infrastructure good enough to care for women and children who are victims of not just trafficking but other cases such as domestic violence. These victims of modern-day slavery are from different nationalities, she said, without specifying which countries the abused women hail from.

The centre provides medical care, counselling and social support for victims, she noted.

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