AIRCOP strengthens the fight against transnational organized crime and terrorism in West Africa

The AIRCOP project is financed by the European Union

The Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP) supports the governments of 33 countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East in the establishment of Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) in international airports. 

By becoming the 13th fully operational AIRCOP team in Africa in May 2017, Ouagadougou Airport (Burkina Faso) joins a growing network of 19 JAITFs, which will soon include the airports of Bissau and El Salvador.

This JAITF network has already proved its worth in the West African region. Since its establishment in 2014 and 2015, the JAITFs of Niamey and Bamako international airports have seized a total of 23.4 kilograms of methamphetamine, 21.6 kilograms of cocaine, more than one million USD and 585,295 EUR, as well as 86 kilograms of gold and 114 false passports. More recently, in May 2017, Niamey International Airport authorities arrested a Nigerian national who was trying to travel to Lyon via Casablanca with nearly 3 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in the double bottom of a suitcase.

Capacity building for airport officers benefiting from the AIRCOP programme and the increased exchange of operational information between the different JAITFs in the region allowed a better understanding of the modus operandi of these criminal networks and thus, more efficiency in the risk assessments and targeting systems established in African airports.

Methamphetamine in the double bottom of a suitcase in Niamey

Thanks to the vigilance of the various JAITFs set up in airports, attempts to bribe law enforcement officers have been brought to light in other West African countries, for instance, in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. It shows that there is a concerted approach by criminal groups to corrupt law enforcement officers at airports to turn a blind eye to drug trafficking.

Furthermore, AIRCOP programme is increasingly developing the capacities to detect high-risk passengers alongside airlines companies. Indeed, the new JAITF in Ouagadougou has benefited from a series of training and mentoring sessions delivered by UNODC and i willing to go further in detection. The National Civil Aviation Agency of Burkina Faso, with the support of AIRCOP, organized a meeting with national and international airlines companies, the JAITF Director, the police, the gendarmerie and the customs. A draft proposal on access to passenger names by the JAITF was discussed, including sensitive aspects related to data confidentiality and airline liability. All participants agreed on the fact that law enforcement offciers need to have access to a wide range of data to better manage and target high-risk passengers and enhance the safety of passengers in planes and airports.

AIRCOP aims to reinforce capacity building to detect and intercept all types of illegal trafficking and high-risk passengers at airports in countries of origin, transit and destination. Moreover, the project aims at strengthening the coordination and the cooperation between the countries. Originally, in 2010, the purpose of AIRCOP was to tackle drug trafficking, particularly cocaine coming from Latin America and transiting through West Africa on the route to Europe. Following new threats and trends, AIRCOP programme was adapted and is gradually focusing on all forms of organized crime affecting the air vector, and more recently, on risks linked to terrorism.

AIRCOP programme is funded by Canada, the European Union, Japan, Norway and the United States, and implemented in partnership with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization.

For further information:

Maritime crime and piracy in the Atlantic Ocean

The AIRCOP programme