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Last Updated: Friday, 8 July 2005, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
More child camel jockeys return
Child jockey returns to Lahore
Some children found homecoming to be traumatic
A second group of 86 children working as camel jockeys in the Gulf have returned to Pakistan, officials say.

The children have been repatriated under a deal between the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations.

Most are from poor families and will be accommodated at a government facility. The first batch of 22 such children returned to Pakistan last month.

Hundreds of young children from poor countries are sent to the Gulf every year to work as camel jockeys.

Hostile environment

The children arrived from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on an early morning flight on Friday.

Child camel jockeys in Muscat
We cannot return them the years they have lost in a hostile environment
Punjab government child rights advisor, Faiza Asghar

They were received in Lahore by the Punjab government's advisor on child rights, Faiza Asghar.

"We cannot return them the years they have lost in a hostile environment," Ms Asghar told reporters at the Lahore airport.

"But we promise we will do our best to make their futures better."

Camel racing is a hugely popular sport in the Gulf countries and children are preferred jockeys because of their light weight.

Reports from international agencies and the media say these children are treated like slaves by their employers who "care more for the camels than the children".

Minister for overseas Pakistanis Tariq Azim has estimated that nearly 3,000 children involved in camel races are stranded in the UAE, out of which between 70 to 80% are of Pakistani origin.

Robot jockeys

In June the UAE agreed a deal with Unicef and the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Mauritius and the UAE to repatriate child camel jockeys.

Returning child jockeys
It was the second batch of children to return within a month

They agreed that help and protection would be offered to boys until they were sent back to their homelands.

The UAE banned jockeys aged under 16 and weighing less than 45kg (100lb) two months ago.

Following successful tests, the UAE says that it now plans to use robot jockeys in place of the boys.

Back home, locating the parents of these children can be an onerous task, given that some of them left Pakistan when they were barely a few years old.

Ms Asghar said that in some cases, the Punjab government has had to do blood tests to determine their parentage.

The caution is aimed at ensuring that none of the children end up with adults who may send them back to the UAE.

The Punjab government is seeking written undertakings from parents that they would not send their children back to being child jockeys.


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Watch the child jockeys' return home



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