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UAE citizens and expatriates addicted to drugs stand a chance to receive adequate treatment and integrate into society without facing criminal charges should they turn themselves in voluntarily, a top official said on Tuesday.
Drug addicts, both citizens and foreigners, who voluntarily turn themselves in and request treatment will face no criminal charges or deportation,” Lt Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, told the Federal National Council.
He was allaying concerns of members of the House about foreigners involved in drug abuse but failing to turn themselves in and requesting treatment for fear of criminal charges and deportation.
“UAE is the home of foreigners from all over the world, and we live together in harmony. We encourage expatriates who are involved in drug abuse to turn themselves in and request treatment, so that the drug scourge can be addressed once and for all. Refusing to receive treatment exacerbates the problem,” Shaikh Saif said.
He added that only those arrested on charges of drug abuse face criminal charges and deportation.
“Vital jobs such as teaching are also taken into account. Addict teachers may not be allowed to teach our children,” Shaikh Saif said.
Article 43 of the Anti-Drug Law stipulates that addicts who voluntarily approach the Public Prosecution and seek help for treatment will not face criminal charges. Addicts are also required to voluntarily handover drugs in their possession to competent authorities.
However, if addicts refuse treatment, despite handing over the drugs, they will face legal action. UAE’s proximity to major drug sources and transit countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, and its role as a sea and air transportation hub, have made the country a transshipment point for heroin and other illegal drugs.
International drug trafficking organisations exploit UAE’s role as a global crossroads by using it as a command and control centre and logistics hub for facilitating drug trafficking through the region and beyond. Rising volumes of drug seizures over the past several years indicate that traffickers increasingly use the UAE as a staging point to warehouse, stockpile, and distribute narcotics.
The UAE authorities continue to interdict drug smuggling attempts, due in part to cooperation between the UAE anti-narcotics authorities and law enforcement from other countries.
The UAE teamed up with more than 53 countries to bust 240 drug smuggling operations and seize 24 tonnes of narcotics over the past three years, according to Shaikh Saif.
Shaikh Saif added that as many as 152 million controlled tablets and 1,187kg of contraband were seized last year.
Stressing that the UAE has a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug abuse and that drug trafficking is treated as a severe crime, Shaikh Saif told the House the country has the lowest deaths caused by drug addiction. “The UAE has a death rate of 4.5 in every million people, compared to 8.7 in every million people in Italy, 12.9 in Turkey, 22.2 in Switzerland, 33.3 in Australia, 53 in England, 53.8 in Iran, 80 deaths in Russia and 149.1 deaths in Scotland,” Shaikh Saif said.
Insurance for sponsors of domestic workers to roll out this year
Lt Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, told the Federal National Council on Tuesday insurance on missing housemaids will be launched this year, so that sponsors of housemaids will not pay the cost of travel of these workers.
“Against a premium of Dh100, sponsors of domestic workers will be insured against absconding housemaids, their failing the medical fitness tests and death. In case of death of the housemaid, the sponsor will be paid the cost of sending the worker’s body home plus Dh5,000, and in the event of failing the fitness test, Dh5,000 will be paid to the sponsor,” Shaikh Saif said.
Shaikh Saif added in the case of absconding, the insurance company will bear the cost of the one-way ticket home for the housemaid.
Shaikh Saif was answering a question by Hamad Al Rahoumi, a member of the House from Dubai, about why the sponsor has to pay the cost of travel of a missing maid.
Unlike in most countries where hiring and dismissing housemaids can be done with relative ease, getting and letting go of maids in the UAE involves a hefty sum and some paperwork. If the maid absconds, the sponsor must report to authorities right away or within seven days of the maid going missing.
Maids who commit crimes such as theft before absconding have to be reported to the police first. Only after that can you report to the immigration.
Al Rahoumi said the hefty sum of more than Dh 20,000 taken against recruitment of a housemaid should be compensated and not just Dh5,000.