DHAKA, Bangladesh – Hundreds of Bangladeshi children taken from their homes and forced to race camels in the United Arab Emirates will be compensated by the Persian Gulf country, the Bangladeshi government said Wednesday.
Home Minister Sahara Khatun said the UAE has given the government nearly $1.44 million US to distribute among 879 Bangladeshi children who worked as jockeys at camel races after it was banned in 1993.
Hundreds of boys under 15 were lured or trafficked into the Gulf states to ride bareback on camels in traditional desert races. Most of them were repatriated after a 2005 agreement between the UAE and the United Nations’ children’s agency, UNICEF.
The children – some as young as four and five years old – mostly came from impoverished families, and faced economic hardships and health problems after returning home, according to local rights groups. They were often seriously injured in falls during races or were underfed to keep their weights down.
Khatun said each child will receive between $1,000 to $10,000 – depending on their injuries and sufferings – for their education, treatment and rehousing.
The UAE banned the use of child jockeys in 1993, following campaigns by human rights groups. But the law was openly flouted until authorities reached an agreement in 2005 with UNICEF to help repatriate and rehabilitate child jockeys, who were mostly taken from poorer Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sudan.