UN Launches Task Force to help stem Drug Trafficking through Senegal

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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.

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