Sunday, June 05, 2005

Kuwait joins list of countries to adopt robot camel jockeys :: Aljazeera.Net
Gulf Arabs dispute US abuse claims

Officials in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE were either unreachable or unwilling to immediately comment on the US report, but in Kuwait a senior official said his country had adopted stiff measures to clamp down on human-trafficking.

These included closing the camel race club for four months in punishment for using child jockeys.

The government reopened it only after the club pledged not to violate the law banning the use of jockeys under 18 or weighing less than 45kg, said Adnan al-Omar, assistant undersecretary at the social affairs and labour ministry.

A plan to replace human jockeys by robots could be applied within weeks, he said.

Omar said Kuwait, which hosts 1.8 million foreigners, was considering a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to "find alternatives for the sponsor system", which binds foreign workers with a view to safeguarding their dignity.

Both Qatar and the UAE have already tested the use of robots as jockeys after banning children in the region's popular sport, and the UAE has signed an agreement with the United Nations children's fund Unicef to rehabilitate child camel jockeys.

But the State Department report said "the trafficking and exploitation of South Asian and African children as camel jockeys has burgeoned in the Gulf states" despite promises to curb the practice.
Emphasis added. The sponsor system used through the Gulf Arab countries has been abused by some. When workers cannot switch to another employer, and do not have access to the courts, that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

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