Morocco uses new technology to fight drug trafficking
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 17/11/08
Aided by new technology, Morocco is intensifying its campaign against drug trafficking. Over the first ten months of 2008, customs officials and police seized a total of 163.1 tonnes of cannabis, 88.4 tonnes of cannabis resin, 25.2 kg of cocaine, 5.9 kg of heroin and 35,673 units of psychotropic drugs.
Khalid Zerouali, director for migration and border surveillance at the interior ministry, said last week in Rabat that major efforts have been made in the fight against drugs.
New equipment deployed at ports, airports and land borders, including a 13 million-dirham scanner in Tangier, allows customs officials and police to conduct more effective searches at sensitive locations.
Hussein Zaitoun, the chief of scanning at the port of Tangier, said the new scanner saves time and helps his staff detect stashed drugs more easily. "The old machine scanned at a rate of 12 metres per minute, while the new one is twice as fast," he said. "The image quality is so much better that we can see into every nook and cranny on lorries."
According to Ali Waddi, the chief of exports at the port of Tangier, officials have made a number of large seizures this year. Two-thirds of the amounts seized were found in small vehicles. Since the beginning of this year, customs officers in Tangier have seized illicit goods worth 62 million dirhams from a total of 300 vehicles.
Moroccan officials have also worked to encourage local communities in the north to cultivate crops other than cannabis. Morocco is a major producer, and is the largest exporter of cannabis resin to Europe. So far in 2008 the authorities have destroyed nearly 4,400 hectares of cannabis plantations.
"We've been able to more than halve the area of land on which cannabis is grown and cut cannabis resin production by 61%," said Director Zerouali.
Morocco's campaign against drug trafficking has also led to the dismantling of international terrorist and criminal rings, said Mourad Soulaimi, a professor of political science.
The shutdown of networks involved in domestic and international drug trafficking has enabled the authorities to detain some 1,200 people – including 600 foreigners – for questioning regarding the cross-border drug trade.
In neighbouring Spain, which serves as the main transit point for drugs moving from Morocco to Europe, there has been a strong push in recent years for co-operation across the Mediterranean.
At its tenth meeting last Tuesday (November 11th) in Rabat, the Joint Moroccan-Spanish Migration Group agreed to conduct joint operations. The two countries discussed the creation of a committee to deal specifically with issues relating to the fight against drugs.
Spanish Secretary of State for Security Antonio Camacho told the press after the meeting that his country is pleased with the creation of the committee. He said the initiative confirms the "desire of the Spanish authorities and their Moroccan counterparts to join forces to tackle a major problem affecting both countries heavily."
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