In the last few years, West Africa has progressively become one of the world's major transit areas for cocaine trafficking between Latin America and Europe. Cocaine is shipped to West Africa mainly by sea and air, but the bulk of air trafficking takes place using couriers or the postal system. Couriers are persons smuggling drugs using commercial airlines. Although there are few direct flights between Latin America and West Africa, couriers use transit airports in other parts of the globe before arriving to their destination in the region or use West African airports as points of departure to reach consumer markets in Europe.

Organized crime groups have long focused on speeding up transportation of drugs and other illicit goods by using ships, containers or aircrafts and have been able to transport even larger amounts across the globe. As the global number of air passengers is expected to double in the coming 20 years, the growing connectivity offered by airlines is prone to exploitation by high-risk passengers. 

Despite efforts being made, many countries still lack the technical and technological capabilities to undertake comprehensive and efficient profiling, inspections of luggage, or body checks without impacting the smooth operations of commercial airports. In addition, the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies in source, transit and destination countries is often inexistent.

AIRCOP is a multi-agency project based on the cooperation between UNODC, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organisations (WCO) that aimed at strengthening the capacities of participating international airports in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East to detect and intercept drugs, other illicit goods and high-risk passengers in both origin, transit and destination countries with the overall objective of disrupting the illegal criminal networks.

For more information:

Visit the  AIRCOP Project  website

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