DUBAI // Braving temperatures of more than 40°C, a group of runners gathered in Dubai yesterday for a gruelling relay race to raise awareness of human trafficking.
The most recent figures available show 58 people were prosecuted in the UAE for human trafficking in 2010, and 37 last year.
Officials said the drop was a result of the UAE's commitment to combatting the crime.
About 30 people took part in a relay race around a 400-metre track at Gems World Academy in Al Barsha South.
The runners, who were split into teams of five and six each, took turns to complete a lap.
"The aim is to do 400 laps of the 400-metre track here," said Katie Pattison-Hart, a Briton who was one of the participants.
"We started at about 6.30am and the plan is to run throughout the day for about 10 to 13 hours until we have completed the laps."
Ms Pattison-Hart, who was part of a six-woman team that rowed across the Atlantic in January as part of the same campaign, said it was crucial more people were made aware of the scale of human trafficking.
"Everyone who is taking part in this has a choice to do this," she said. "The many millions of people who are the victims of this trade have no voice and do not have a choice."
This month Dr Anwar Gargash, the chairman of the country's National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said that the cases reported last year were "just the tip of the iceberg".
Dr Gargash said private companies needed to be better monitored for evidence of labour trafficking.
Yesterday's event was also to raise funds for the A21 Campaign, an international charity that builds shelters for rescued victims, and End Child Prostitution UK.
In 2005, the United Nations estimated there were 2.4 million throughout the world in forced labour at any time as a result of human trafficking. About 80 per cent of those were women and girls.
The human-trafficking industry is worth more than Dh117 billion a year, the UN estimated.
"The figures involved are pretty shocking, and this is an issue that really needs to be brought out more so action can be taken against it," said Craig Harriman, from the Burn Room Gym in Dubai, which helped to coordinate the event.