Monday, July 12, 2010

Arab experts call for new measures to combat piracy, crime

By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 09/07/10

Arab port and border security chiefs ended their 10th summit Thursday (July 8th) at the Arab Interior Ministers Council's Tunis headquarters with a call to combat marine piracy and trans-national trafficking.

Piracy is a growing problem in the Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and other regions, despite considerable efforts from NATO and other institutions, the Arab experts noted. Commercial vessels from home ports around the world have been hijacked to fund the war in Somalia or to support terrorist groups operating there or in neighbouring regions.

"[The] rising pace of security events and problems resulting from the infiltration of countries' borders and their air, sea and land crossings... emphasises the importance of controlling borders and crossings for the security, well-being and stability of countries," said Mohammed Ben Ali Kouman, secretary-general of the Arab Interior Ministers Council, at the opening of the conference on Wednesday.

The Tunis forum called for the deployment of advanced radar systems to detect infiltration in territorial waters and monitor maritime arms, drugs and human trafficking operations.

Also necessary, the experts agreed, is co-ordination among Arab countries and other friendly nations in order to improve maritime security.

In April, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1918 on the issue of piracy. This resolution calls on all countries to criminalise acts of piracy under their national laws.

According to UN statistics, Somali pirates carried out 217 attacks and hijacked 47 vessels in 2009 alone, receiving some $82 million in ransom.

On the issues of drugs and human trafficking, the assembled experts called on Arab authorities to work towards establishing a joint headquarters for operations and security control in airports, seaports and land borders.

"Although terrorism is undoubtedly the biggest danger threatening different countries and societies, it's certainly not the only threat," said Kouman.

"Drug mafias are making astronomical revenues through their criminal trade at the expense of peoples, their interests and lives of their citizens. We shouldn't also forget human trafficking, which has also become an active trade carried out by multinational organised crime syndicates," he said.

According to a June report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Morocco was the largest source of confiscated quantities of cocaine in Europe between 2005 and 2009, amounting to 3,700 kg.

Morocco was also the second-highest African country, behind Nigeria, for the numbers of women transported to Europe for sexual exploitation, the UNODC report said.

The US State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons report, issued in June, revealed that Moroccan women were engaged in prostitution in Cyprus, Korea, Lebanon and many other countries following exposure to human trafficking networks.

The experts' recommendations are to be presented to the next session of the Arab Interior Ministers Council for adoption.