DUBAI // The UAE is among the top destination and transit countries in the world for illicit drugs, according to a United Nations report.
More than 200 kilograms of heroin alone was seized in the Emirates in 2010, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) World Drug Report 2012, which was released last week in New York.
"The United Arab Emirates ranks as the sixth most frequently mentioned country of destination for consignments seized while being trafficked internationally by air," said Antoine Vella, a statistician from UNODC's division for policy analysis and public affairs in Vienna.
The data is based on UNODC's records of individual seizure cases from 2005 to 2010.
The report was released on Tuesday to coincide with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
About 230 million people, or five per cent of the world's adult population age 15 to 64, are estimated to have used an illegal drug at least once in 2010, the report states.
A Dubai Customs spokesman said its officials had seized heroin, hashish, cocaine, opium, khat, cannabis, poppy seeds, captagon, crystal meth and Tramadol pills in the last two years.
"In 2011, Dubai Customs was able to foil 212 smuggling attempts, compared with 414 in 2010," said the official.
He added that smugglers caught in Dubai hid drugs in their intestines, luggage, clothes and inside containers. The authority did not disclose the quantities seized.
Mr Vella said heroin was the most seized drug in the UAE in recent years, followed by cannabis and cocaine.
"The quantity peaked at 388kg in 2008 and had fallen by almost one half by 2010, to 210kg," he said. "But this quantity remains relatively high in comparison with levels prior to 2005."
About 183kg of heroin was seized in 2005.
"Based on all reported seizures in the UAE over this period, heroin was the most frequently seized drug, but significant numbers of cannabis and, in recent years, cocaine seizures were also made," said Mr Vella.
UN experts said trafficking in the Emirates was "diversified in terms of the destination countries, types of drug and method of transportation" and drugs seized were intended for trafficking within the UAE and for other countries.
"Apart from the UAE itself, a total of 27 countries were identified as the intended destinations for the consignments," Mr Vella said.
Experts said air trafficking of drugs was the most common form of smuggling to the Emirates.
"Considering reports from various countries on provenance and destination of trafficked drugs, it appears that the UAE is an important transit country, especially for trafficking by air. Given the role of this country as an important international transportation hub, it is inevitable that traffickers will attempt to exploit it for their own purposes," Mr Vella said.
Dubai Customs conceded that some smuggling operations were being made into the UAE, and that others used Dubai as a transit stop.
"Dubai Customs are tightening control on all border ports through a skilled team of inspectors using state-of-the-art equipment. Their role is pivotal in protecting the UAE from harmful substances," said the customs spokesman.
The World Drug Report 2012 noted that problem drug users - mainly dependent on heroin and cocaine - number about 27 million worldwide.
This is equivalent to roughly 0.6 per cent of the world adult population. Data for seizures from last year was not yet available.