W. Africa, Brazilian Airports Link Up to Fight Drugs

By Dialogo
October 15, 2010

The United Nations Office for Drug and Crime launched a project on 14 October
to improve communication between police and airports in seven West African countries
and Brazil to crack down on drug trafficking.

Drug runners are taking advantage of the weak coordination to smuggle cocaine
from South America to countries in West Africa, which they use as a springboard for
trafficking to the European market.

Senegalese senior interior ministry official Cheikhou Cisse said that aim of
the project, dubbed Aircop, was “to establish secure communication between
airports in West Africa and Latin America”.

Brazil, Cape Verde, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo are
participating in the programme and Guinea and Morocco have been invited to

Concretely, Aircop, will “bring together all agencies in charge of
fighting trafficking and organised crime at the national level into a unit that can
work with regional and trans-regional counterparts”, the head of the EU
delegation in Dakar, Gilles Hervio, said.

Airports participating in the programme will have units of no more than 20
people operating around the clock, he added.

Cisse said that according to UN figures 200 to 300 tonnes of cocaine arrive
in Europe each year by airplane. “Part of this traffic comes from West
Africa,” he said.

Out of 822 drug seizures in Europe in 2009, 122 or 13 percent arrived on
flights from West Africa, according to the United Nations drug office’s
regional head Alexandre Schmidt.

Schmidt said that “West Africa has become a target for drug traffickers
because of a crackdown in the United States” and because of the weak
coordination between various services and governments in the region.

Aircop is expected to cost 2.3 million euros (3.2 million dollars), financed
mainly by the European Union. Canada is also contributing 300,000 euros.