How illegal drugs flow across our borders

11Mar 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
How illegal drugs flow across our borders
  • In the first eight months of 2014 alone, Tanzania intercepted consignments containing over 321 kilogrammes of drugs

A new United Nations report has confirmed that Tanzania is now a popular international transit hub for illegal drugs of various kinds being smuggled to and fro across the country’s borders.

Tanzania is now a popular international transit hub for illegal drugs

According to data presented in the UN-linked International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report for 2015 which was launched in Dar es Salaam this week, local authorities intercepted consignments containing over 321 kilograms of contraband narcotics during the first eight months of 2014 alone.

Cannabis accounted for the highest percentage, followed by khat and heroin (in that order), the INCB report said.

The heroin seized in the country was normally smuggled out of countries like Afghanistan, India and Pakistan in Asia, and Iran in the Middle East, and destined for China, Japan, South Africa, Turkey and the United States, as well as countries in Europe, it explained.

"East African countries and certain European countries have reported annual growth in seizures of heroin of African origin," the report added.

Tanzania, along with some other African countries, also continued to be used as a trans-shipment area for the smuggling of cocaine across the Atlantic Ocean into Europe, according to the INCB report.

It cited the seizure of three tons of cocaine on a Tanzania-registered ship off the coast of Britain April 2015 as an example, explaining:

"The vessel was intercepted by the authorities of the United Kingdom 100 miles east of the coast of Scotland.

The interdiction was conducted in cooperation with the French customs service and other international partners, and represents one of the largest cocaine seizures in the history of the United Kingdom."

At the same time, the UN-affiliated drugs control board listed Tanzania among four African countries that currently serve as the origin or transit point for new psychoactive substances.

A psychoactive drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness, which includes subscription medicine.

The INCB report noted that almost half of problem drug users who imbibe via injection tend to follow unsafe injecting practices such as the re-use and sharing of needles and syringes and the ineffective cleaning of injecting equipment, thus contributing to a rise in incidences of HIV/AIDS infection.

This is especially evident in the three East African countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, along with Senegal in West Africa, “where people who inject drugs often use non-sterile injecting equipment," according to the report.

It however also noted that some African countries, including Tanzania, have improved national systems for drug dependence treatment, mainly as a result of skill development and capacity-building initiatives.

"According to UNODC (the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), Kenya and Tanzania have enhanced their capacity to prevent HIV infection and hepatitis infection among people who inject drugs," the report said.

On another note, the INCB report revealed that an increasing number of middle-class Africans are becoming drug users in countries that once acted solely as transit points for narcotics headed for Europe.

"Traffickers in search of new illicit markets for cocaine and heroin have targeted the nascent middle class in certain African countries such as Benin, which has been used as a transit country for many decades, and Namibia, a transit country that is becoming a consumer country."

Annual usage of cannabis by the average African is said to be double that of the world average, at 7.5 per cent among 15-64 year olds on the continent, and even higher in west and central Africa.