• 21 July 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    EU-ACT: fighting the “heroin routes”

    The project has a budget of €12 million and will cover 30 countries in four years to combat the destructive and massive heroin business

    For decades Afghanistan has been positioning itself as the primary international exporter of heroin, a deadly drug associated with the proliferation of organised crime and a massive business that moves billions of euros annually.

     

    Producing 4,800 tonnes of opium in 2016 and with more than 200,000 hectares under cultivation, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country is situated at the nerve centre of the zone known as the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran), the origin of most of the opiates consumed in Europe.

     

    In line with the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020, this week the EU-ACT Action Against Drugs and Organised Crime project was launched, in Brussels, as the third phase of an initiative that fights drug trafficking and organised crime in relation to two contexts:

     

    Supply reduction: this involves strengthening legal and transnational police cooperation to attack the major drug trafficking networks.

    Demand reduction: efforts are also aimed at prevention of drug consumption and improvement of drug addiction treatment.

     

    Both fronts are essential. As explained by the leader of the project, Thomas Carter, “they are two sides of the same coin: there needs to be equilibrium between repressive policies that pursue trafficking and organised crime and those focussed on demand reduction”.

     

    More than thirty countries

    From Afghanistan, the Heroin Route traditionally crossed the Balkans to reach Europe. However, pathways have multiplied and now pass through some thirty countries using various routes:

     

    Balkans Route: This links Afghanistan with Iran and then passes through Turkey. It is the shortest distance and the most direct overland route to European consumption markets. It has been used since the 1980s.

    Southern Route: in recent years, large heroin shipments loaded in the ports of Iran and Pakistan have attracted attention.

    Northern Route: from northern Afghanistan, heroin is sent to the large consumption markets of Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

    Caucasus Route: drugs produced in the Golden Crescent are transported from Iran to Turkey, passing through Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

    South Route: this passes through East Africa to reach the EU from the south.

     

    The project focusses on more than 30 beneficiary countries with very different needs and five strategic zones: Central Asia, Southern Caucasus, Ukraine, Asia and East Africa.

     

    Spanish Civil Guard colonel and project co-director Manuel Marión highlights the flexibility of the initiative: “One of the most acute needs of Kyrgyzstan is to train prosecutors and police in using special investigative techniques aimed at drugs, such as controlled deliveries”.

     

    Nonetheless, “it may happen that Tanzania needs to learn about the European experience with coastal surveillance, because the heroin arrives on ships” indicates Marión.

     

    Law enforcement and legal action are generally conducted at the national level, which makes it difficult to eradicate a global phenomenon like this one. Therefore the project places special emphasis on coordination between the police forces of all the drug-transit countries. Transnational and transregional cooperation is essential.

     

    A billion-euro business

    Tom Carter describes one of the main difficulties in eradicating heroin trafficking: corruption. “We’re talking about billions of euros, and the issue is that the closer it is to the market, the more money is involved and the more expensive the product is. For example, one kilo of opium may cost €2,000 in Afghanistan and over time, as it approaches Europe, this may reach €25,000 to €40,000”.

     

    “It’s a massive and invasive business. It moves so much money that it easily corrupts. A police officer or customs agent in any country outside Europe, for example in Central Asia or Africa, is very tempted when someone offers €200 to not open a truck”. It is a question of investing in development because “in a country undermined by corrupt officials in its institutions, the project becomes useless”, explains Carter.

     

    The key: influencing policies

    One of the main objectives of the project is to help the authorities and security forces of these countries to identify and pursue the major traffickers who handle large quantities of drugs.

     

    However, work is being done in parallel to find alternatives to prison, such as drug treatment. “We have neither the budget nor the time to fix everything, but we can contribute our experiences from the perspective of the EU. Perceptions must be changed so that people see a drug addict as a victim and not as a criminal”, explains Carter.

     

     

    For the next four years, FIIAPP will be managing this project, which has a budget of €12,000,000 funded by the European Commission, and will be implemented by experts from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, Italy’s Carabinieri and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

  • 09 May 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Europe day: Peace and Unity on the continent

    At FIIAPP we join the celebration of Europe Day under the motto of "United in Diversity"

    Why do we celebrate Europe Day on 9 May?

    In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the countries of Europe still had not recovered from the consequences of the two world wars and feared the prospect of a third one. To avoid it, their governments reached the conclusion that the best option was to create an economic alliance around the main raw materials, coal and steel, which would make war improbable.
    One of the first people to state this position was Robert Schuman, the French minister of foreign affairs. In 1950, he gave a speech that laid the groundwork for this union, which would later be called the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community), the embryo of the current European Union. This speech given on 9 May 1950 is remembered as the Schuman Declaration, and it gave rise to the celebration of Europe Day.

     

    European values in the work of FIIAPP

    We at FIIAPP, as a foundation that manages European funds from the External Action Plan, join this celebration and embrace the motto of the European Union: “United in Diversity”.

     

    FIIAPP’s Director of Management Systems and Procedures, Agustín Fernandez, stresses the importance of these European values in the work of the foundation: “in the 100 plus countries where FIIAPP works, we do not impose the will of Europe, nor does Europe wish to impose its policies or values. Europe is liberty. Rather it is the partner countries that Europe works with who want to learn about these values and these policies that have enabled such diverse countries to live in peace and harmony and with great economic and social prosperity. One of the purposes of FIIAPP is to disseminate the best practices of these European policies through the projects it manages.”

     

    “Europe is diverse, it is large, it is different, and that enriches us. But it is also a Europe that shares a set of common values, and through FIIAPP and Spanish cooperation we encourage and work to defend these values that unite us and identify us as Europeans.

     

    Europe Day activities

    Over the course of the week, there is an extensive agenda of activities distributed by the member countries of the European Union and the different European institutions, with Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg being the key spots for these events. The different European institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, etc.) celebrate open days in which citizens can visit the facilities and see how they operate first hand.

  • 10 July 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Searching for Cocaine at the Port of Callao (Peru)

    Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the EU project to combat drug trafficking in Peru, witnesses an operation conducted by the Peruvian port authorities at the Port of Callao.

    It’s 6:15 in the morning and we are at the entrance to the loading docks at the Port of Callao, around 25 kilometres north of Lima. There is a quite odd and steady flow of workers, stevedores, seamen, customs officials, contractors and other people that you really can’t tell what they do at a port, which employs over 5,000 people and is one of the largest ports on the American continent. One of the characters milling around the port approaches me and asks me for a cigarette, I offer him the last one in my pack, telling him to keep it and that I’m going to give up anyway. Oddly, it’s the same brand as he usually smokes, or so he tells me. The guy smiles and asks me where I’m from, I tell him that I’m from Iceland, that usually means that people will leave me alone and not bother me with talk about Barça and Madrid. It’s very early and I got up at 4:15 am.

    Here the days begin way before dawn and you never know when they will end, today is the second week of the course that we have organised on searching ships and shipping containers for drugs. Two German customs officials have come along to teach the primarily practical activities. From their height and build, it’s obvious that they are not from this land. Both the instructors and the students are excellent and have achieved some unbeatable results.

    It’s calculated that 60% of the cocaine that currently arrives in Europe comes from Peru. The majority of this substance is transported to its destination by sea. It normally arrives at the commercial ports and recreational harbours of Spain, Belgium or Holland. Drug traffickers are usually ahead of the curve in terms of techniques for hiding drugs. We have seen everything from clothing impregnated with cocaine, drugs hidden in the stomachs of frozen fish or in babies’ nappies – anything goes.

    No less surprising or dramatic is the situation faced by some people in Peru who become involved in this illegal trade, most due to need but others due to greed. From the poor farmer who is under a death threat to grow the coca plant (both he and his family) from the narco-terrorist group Shining Path; the young person forced to work in a chemical laboratory in the jungle to make base paste and who is a target of bombing by the army (something which is not reported in newspapers); the single mother who, to pay her bills, swallows 74 bags of cocaine and is arrested on arrival in Europe because she has been reported by the very same organisation that it trying to smuggle in other “drug mules” on the same flight and so wants to distract customs officials; to other more tragic situations that I prefer not to go into. It’s hard when you see the human faces involved in this business to get the ‘product’ to the end user.

    Of course, the protagonists of the previous paragraph are just cannon fodder for this business. In reality, the real beneficiaries of this illegal industry are the large criminal organisations, fiscal paradises and certain powers that be, which have no regard for the human repercussions of this issue.

    With a view to disrupting this illicit trade, the European Union has launched a project to support the fight against drug trafficking in Peru, led by FIIAPP, in collaboration its partners, the law enforcement agencies of Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Czech Republic. The objective of this project is to improve the air, land and sea drug interception capabilities, as well as improving capabilities for obtaining intelligence, investigating and prosecuting drug lords.

    At the time of writing this post, as part of one the project’s activities, we are working at the Port of Callao alongside the institutions responsible for drugs seizures at Peruvian port, namely customs, police, public prosecutors and coast guard.

    As I said at the start, in the morning we build a profile of suspicious ships and containers, then we later carry out the practical search activities on them to see what we can find. For example, the port intelligence unit passed us some information about a container carrying frozen corn, passion fruit pulp and Rocoto pepper (very spicy) to Spain. Come on! As if there isn’t enough corn in Spain or it is cheaper to bring it frozen in a refrigerated container from Peru – it just doesn’t make sense. So we set the container aside to be searched. The students on the course disassemble the container’s refrigeration system and check the load and, indeed, among the corn and passion fruit pulp we find a suspicious box containing a security seal and instructions on how to apply it. This means that at some point between Callao and Spain, this container would be opened, loaded with cocaine and the new security seal would then installed. An investigation is currently ongoing into who placed the new security seal inside the container and into other issues relating to the container’s origin and destination. Curiously, a worker from the loading area in which the container was stored has disappeared and no one seems to know where he is.

     

    At the end of the day we attend a debriefing session, where everyone explains what they have learned and how it can be replicated in their units. The idea behind this project is that every time you train someone, that person in turn conveys the knowledge gained to other members of the department to which they are assigned.

    As night falls, our day’s session comes to an end and we make our way back to Lima, in rush hour traffic it will take us at least another hour to get home. Tomorrow we will begin again at dawn, I wonder what we will find…

    Gerard Muñoz Arcos – Coordinator of the EU-ENLCD Project (Videoblog)