Senegal enhances the capacity of Dakar airport to intercept illicit drugs

photo: UNODC West Africa Français / French

26 October  2011 - Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC, has launched the operation of a joint airport interdiction task force based in Dakar, a major air traffic hub in West Africa.  The task force will contribute to the effectiveness of the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), which is aimed at improving airport intelligence and information-sharing.

South American cocaine bound for Europe transits through Africa by air and sea, which can pose a security threat for the continent. In 2010 UNODC, the World Customs Organization and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) launched AIRCOP to improve intelligence-led policing at airports and information-sharing among 20 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.

The challenge is immense.  The 2009 UNODC report Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: A Threat Assessment estimated that up to 100 tons of cocaine might have transited through West Africa in roughly five years. 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 composed 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. 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," said the Executive Director.

Fully equipped task forces will help to 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 ECOWAS regional action plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa.The $7.6 million project is funded by Canada and the European Union.