The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a task force to boost the capacity of the international airport in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, to intercept narcotics smuggled through the facility, a major air traffic hub in West Africa.
The task force, launched yesterday by Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, is expected to improve the effectiveness of the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), which is designed to strengthen airport intelligence and information-sharing.
Much of the cocaine sourced from South America and bound for Europe transits through Africa by air and sea, according to UNODC.
UNODC, the World Customs Organization and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) launched AIRCOP last year to improve intelligence-led policing at airports and information-sharing among 20 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.
According to a 2009 UNODC report on trans-national drug trafficking and the rule of law in West Africa, up to 100 tons of cocaine could have transited through West Africa in about a five-year period.
AIRCOP aims to establish secure, effective real-time communication and exchange of information among source, transit and destination countries of cocaine trafficking. Under the project, joint airport interdiction task forces made up of officers from various law enforcement agencies will operate around the clock at 20 international airports.
The Dakar cell will comprise 21 officers from customs, police and the gendarmerie.
“This marks an important step in controlling the flow of illicit drugs, given Dakar’s important position as an air traffic crossroads,” said Mr. Fedotov. “I urge the international community to provide much-needed assistance to countries so that they may take full control of their coasts and airspace and investigate organized crime and drug trafficking.”
Fully equipped task forces are expected to help increase the number of drug seizures and the effectiveness of related investigations. They will have access to the international databases of INTERPOL and to CENcomm, a secured system of communications managed by the World Customs Organization and adapted to the needs of AIRCOP.
“We must consolidate our efforts and expertise with those of our national and international partners, for none of us can win this fight alone. We should continue our support for enhanced communications and coordination among law enforcement bodies along the transatlantic cocaine route, advanced criminal data services, police training and capacity-building,” said Mr. Fedotov.
AIRCOP supports the efforts of the regional action plan of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in the region. The project, whose cost is estimated at $7.6 million, is funded by Canada and the European Union.