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Under age Camel Jockeys will be banned

The Emirates Camel Racing Federation (ECRF) announced it will soon enforce the age limit set for jockeys taking part in races. South Asian organisations have expressed their readiness to help repatriate boys who are aged below 15.

The Federation said that the ban on young jockeys will go into effect on September 1st on the order of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nayhan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the ECRF. A spokesman for the federation stressed that the law will be firmly implemented. Race camel owners who employ young children will be fined Dh 20,000.

"If they are found to be using boys as jockeys, owners will be banned from the races for one year. then it will be jail for the third offence" he said.

The UAE Interior Ministry will be following through with the local municipalities and the airports and ports are on alert to check that no boys are smuggled in to be employed as a camel jockey. At least six children have been sent back to Pakistan from the UAE since late July, according to diplomatic sources. 

The ECRF had already required that jockeys weigh no less than 45 kilogrammes, which is the inter­national standard set for horse jockeys. The 1993 ruling had prohibited the use of child jockeys and was in accordance with the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Sheikh Hamdan had noted that despite the earlier rule, some owners had ignored it, harming the reputation of the sport.

The violations have been committed mostly by agents acting illegally,   especially from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who manage to bring in the children. Their targets are usually boys from poor village families. Children have also been kid­napped and taken out of the countries, sources said.

Diplomats from Pakistan and Bangladesh were appreciative of the ruling and called it a wise decision of the UAE leadership." The rules issued last month banning camel jockeys below 15 years of age and weighing less than 45kg was a great decision that will put a ban on children taking part in camel racing for their safety," said one diplomat.

M.A.K. Mahmood, Charge d'Affaires, Bangladesh Embassy, told Gulf News that if the consulate  of the embassy is approached for the repatriation of the child jockeys, they would definitely help them. 

"We welcomed the ban when it was announced and we are very appreciative of the humanitarian considerations shown by the UAE authorities."

Mahmood said that most children are taken out of Bangladesh illegally.

Pakistan  Consul  General Amanullah Larik added: "We do not have any numbers of jockeys who are expected to go back Pakistan. They come here illegally. Pakistan has a strict rule on unaccompanied children." He said most of the children a from Dera Ghazi Khan or Rahimyar. He hailed the UAE leaders for the decision of baring jockeys under the age of 1 from participating in camel races in the country and said that this will correct the image of the sport in the country.

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