MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India will sign an agreement soon with the United Arab Emirates on improving cooperation to stop human trafficking, following a similar recent deal with Bahrain, as part of a drive to tackle the growth in trafficking between the two regions.
More than 150,000 people are known to be trafficked within South Asia every year, but the trade is underground and the real number is likely to be much higher.
South Asia is the world's fastest-growing region for human trafficking and the second-largest after Southeast Asia, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Under the accord with the UAE, aimed at helping women and children in particular, anti-trafficking units and task forces will be set up and bilateral cooperation improved, India's government press bureau said on Wednesday.
The two nations will ensure rapid investigations and prosecutions of traffickers, while safeguarding the rights of victims, who will be sent home quickly for "safe and effective reintegration..." the press bureau statement said.
The accord is expected to be signed "very soon", it added.
India also has an anti-trafficking agreement with neighboring Bangladesh.
India is both a source and transit country for trafficking to the UAE. Men, women and children are taken there from South Asia, Southeast and Central Asia and eastern Europe and tricked into forced labor and sex work.
Men also go to the UAE voluntarily to work on construction sites, in hotels and as drivers, while women go to work as domestic helpers, nurses, beauticians and cleaners.
Some workers are also subjected to forced labor by unlawful withholding of their passports, restrictions on their movement, non-payment of wages, threats and physical or sexual abuse, according to the statement.
"The reinforcement of anti-trafficking efforts at all levels between the UAE and India is essential" to prevent trafficking and protect victims, it said.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change)