UNODC reports reveal complex smuggling web across Sahel region of Africa News
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UNODC reports reveal complex smuggling web across Sahel region of Africa

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) West and Central Africa released a series of reports Saturday revealing a complex trafficking web across the Sahel region of Africa as part of its Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment (TOCTA) Sahel project.

The reports show the efforts of organized crime throughout the Sahel to smuggle firearms, medical products, fuel and migrants. The reports found that the primary source of weapons in the region is diverted from national armed forces. This is compounded by the need for local communities to protect themselves in the region, leading to smaller regional armed militias, amongst whom diversion is even easier and more difficult to track.

The reports also point out the direct relationship between increased rates of infectious disease throughout the Sahel and the increase in the smuggling of medical supplies, claiming:

In the Sahel countries and their neighbours, the high prevalence of infectious diseases, including malaria, coupled with challenges in terms of the availability and affordability of and access to healthcare, creates an environment in which the demand for medical products and services is not fully met through formal channels.

The reports further claim that due to fuel prices and the need for the majority of the Sahel to import oil, a large underground fuel market has emerged, benefiting “illegal non-state armed groups, including groups deemed ‘terrorist’ by the international community.” The reports also found that recent counter-smuggling efforts, particularly those that crack down on migration, have “contributed to the emergence of new smuggling routes connecting the Niger and Libya, as well as emerging migrant smuggling hubs in southern Algeria.” Maps were released along with the reports, highlighting the routes smugglers currently use.

Further reports are expected from the UNODC shortly on human trafficking, drug trafficking, gold trafficking and organized crime in the Sahel.