Seychelles to assist in drug fight
Shift from anti-piracy to anti-narcotics.
UNODC counts on Seychelles support to combat drug trafficking on the high seas
By: Sharon Uranie
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) is looking at other opportunities to engage with Seychelles now that there is a decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa.
UNODC’s outgoing country programme officer for maritime crime Shanaka Jayasekara said this in a press interview at State House this morning, after paying a farewell call on the Seychelles President James Michel.
Jayasekara has come to the end of his two-year posting to the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of around 90,000 people.
Seychelles’ pivotal role in countering piracy in the Indian Ocean region
Pirate attacks off the vast coastline of Somalia have declined, from 236 in 2011 to two reportedly unsuccessful attacks in 2014, thanks to international counter-piracy cooperation efforts.
Seychelles ended up placing itself at the forefront of the fight against piracy as the scourge which began to plague the Indian Ocean since 2005 had a direct impact on the country’s tourism and fisheries sectors.
Several groups of Seychellois fishermen were also held captive and subsequently released by Somali pirates, the last being a pair of elderly fishermen who were released in 2011 after over a year spent in captivity.
Working actively with international partners including UNODC, to apprehend and prosecute suspected Somali pirates over the last six years has seen the island nation prosecute more pirates than any other country in the region.
The country’s role in combating piracy and other maritime related crimes which includes the trafficking of illegal drugs and weapons was further strengthened in April this year with the opening of a modern court complex that has special jurisdiction to hear cases related to such crimes.
“Seychelles has conducted 17 piracy trials, convicted 138 pirates tried 142 there is no other country that can give these statistics in terms of maritime piracy. Seychelles has established jurisprudence in maritime crime law…Seychelles has been at the forefront in counter-piracy prosecutions…to see these being achieved by Seychelles has been the greatest achievement I have been able to facilitate,” Jayasekara told journalists.
UNODC seeks Seychelles support in counter-narcotics effort on the high seas
These achievements and collaboration between Seychelles and the UNODC were the main topics of discussions between Jayasekara and President Michel, at State House this morning.
The meeting was also an opportunity to highlight future areas of cooperation, including work which has already started on an anti-drug demand strategy with the government of Seychelles.
“There is a need to engage in drug demand reduction activities, so we will be looking at drug demand reduction, treatment counselling processes, training of counsellors,” said Jayasekara.
Statistics indicate that the use of heroin is a major concern in the Seychelles. Figures released in a study carried out by the Seychelles Ministry of Health on drug users in 2011 showed that heroin was used in injection form by some 1000 heroin drug users in the country.
These statistics were used in a 2013 global report on drugs by the United Nations, which stated that Seychelles had one of the highest proportions of intravenous drug users worldwide.
In February 2014, the Deputy Chief of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), the Seychelles’ national anti-drug agency, Liam Quinn, estimated that due to national anti-narcotics measures, the number of intravenous drug users in Seychelles had decreased to around 600 addicts, but no official statistics have been released since the 2011 report to confirm this claim.
According to the Seychelles Ministry of Health, drug use in Seychelles is “causing significant health and social challenges.”
Still concerning drugs, the UNODC is also counting on Seychelles to play an equal pivotal role in countering drug trafficking on the high seas following the recent trend of a large flow of drugs coming from the Makran coast of Pakistan and Iran to the East African coast that passes near the Seychelles economic zone.
This has been described as an alternative to the traditional opium trail via Central Asia and the Balkans.
UNODC committed to assist Seychelles in the fight against maritime crime
In a press statement issued this afternoon State House said President Michel took the opportunity to express gratitude “for the continuous support of the UNODC in developing capacity-building and ensuring the success of its programmes, particularly in the fight against maritime crime, such as piracy, drug trafficking as well as judicial proceedings.”
It is to be noted that the UNODC had delivered grant assistance to Seychelles worth some 5 million US dollars in the last five years. This also include extension of prison facilities, equipment and training for law enforcement officers including helping to develop university accredited qualifications with the University of Seychelles in maritime crime and law enforcement, which is offered to four regional states.
UNODC’s outgoing country programme officer for maritime crime Shanaka Jayasekara has said that the organization would continue to support the country in taking the lead role in ensuring regional maritime security.
Upon leaving Seychelles Jayasekara will be moving to Nairobi, Kenya where he will be taking up a post relating to counter-narcotics efforts.