Morocco takes on cross-border crime
Greater Sahel-Saharan co-operation could mitigate the prevalence of drugs and arms trafficking in the region, Moroccan authorities say.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 30/05/12The fight against cross-border international crime requires everyone’s involvement and co-operation, from the security services to the public, Moroccan officials recently asserted.
Foreign Affairs Minister Saadeddine Othmani answered questions about the issue May 24th during the weekly parliament session. Othmani expressed his concern about “dangerous” security threats in the Sahel-Saharan region and stressed the pioneering role Morocco plays in warning about the danger.
Morocco will work on making this security challenge the centre of discussion during the next Sahel-Saharan minister’s meeting in Rabat, as well as the restructuring of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).
Interior Minister Mohand Laenser discussed the issue with lawmakers on May 7th. Some MPs expressed concern over the growth of organised crime within Morocco’s neighbourhood: the proliferation of cross-border arms trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, drugs smuggling, and illegal immigration.
Laenser said that Morocco was not immune to these issues, adding that the problems also occurred across the country’s borders to the north and east.
He went on to reassure legislators, stressing that the Moroccan security services have achieved great results, particularly in their fight against illegal immigration, drugs and arms smuggling.
“Morocco is mobilising all its human and technological resources to secure the national borders,” he pointed out, adding that the exchange of information at the regional level was also proving highly effective.
The minister stated that Morocco has opted for a preventive strategy which is bearing fruit, particularly through dismantling a number of terrorist cells.
He said that guaranteeing security is not a job for the state alone, but that the public also needs to get involved in the issue by reporting criminals and illegal situations.
Laenser commented that many Africans using Morocco as a transit country to Europe are being exploited by groups active in the drugs and arms smuggling. The minister said that international co-operation was proving to be very important when tackling the different facets of cross-border organised crime.
Karim Chadli, who specialises in international relations, said ‘the world knows’ the Sahel is a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of smuggling activities, due to the low density of the territory and the lack of tight security controls.
“Added to which, criminal networks are working with each other, trading services. This has brought negative repercussions for all countries in the region,” Chadli said. “Despite controls being exercised at the borders, no country in the region can escape the threat of cross-border organised crime,” he explained.
Apart from the security aspect, Chadli recommended economic co-operation between all the countries in the region and the European Union, stating that security went hand-in-hand with development.
Many members of the public said they were happy to work with the security services to fight the criminal networks.
“Each and every person needs to act with courage as a good citizen, exposing the criminals with the information they have,” student Ahlam Aouani said. “If you know something, then you must tell the authorities. It’s your duty, and it keeps the country safe.”