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Bahrain ‘is a transit point for smugglers’

Bahrain News
Sun, 03 Apr 2016
By Laala Kashef Alghata


Bahrain: COMBATING drug trafficking is challenging as the country is being used as a “transit point” for smugglers, according to a top official.  

Bahraini authorities were working in co-ordination with other Gulf states to tackle the problem, said Interior Ministry Anti-Narcotics Directorate head Dr Colonel Mubarak bin Huwail Almerri.

However, he said despite narcotics being transported through the country Bahrain “did not have a drug problem”.

“We don’t have a market for drugs in Bahrain, we are a country that is considered a transit and transport point, it’s not one of growing or use,” Dr Almerri told the GDN.

“The drug problem isn’t a national problem, it’s a regional problem.

“The issues that we have in Bahrain are the same issues that they have in Saudi Arabia, in the UAE, in Qatar.

“For instance, in the Gulf we don’t have an issue with cocaine because we’re geographically far from the countries that produce cocaine, such as Ecuador.

“The countries that have that issue are more like Mexico and the US.

“We also can’t grow drugs in Bahrain, even if someone unfortunately manages to plant, it’s only going to be a small amount.

“Whereas a country like Afghanistan, for instance, grows a lot of drugs.”

Dr Almerri said illicit drugs available in Bahrain were mostly heroin and marijuana which were smuggled in from East Asia.

Problem

“We don’t have a lot of drugs, but the main ones that available in Bahrain are marijuana, heroin, and amphetamines,” he said.

“All Gulf countries have this problem.

“Through our role and work, though, we have a lower drug rate in Bahrain, as said by the UN.

“I think one of the most important things that keeps drug use to a minimum is the family unit in Bahrain.

“When you say that someone got into a fight, or had a street race, you are angry but it’s forgiveable.

“When someone says that their son or brother is using drugs, it’s considered a huge problem and the whole family comes together.

“In Bahrain, we don’t have a drugs phenomenon, we have a drugs problem.

“It isn’t bad enough for us to call it a phenomenon, and as I said, that’s mostly due to the family unit and the work that the Education Ministry does
as well.

“Strong influence from parents and in schools keeps the country in check.”

However, he said in Bahrain the misuse of prescription medicine was more widespread than illegal substances.

“There are people who misusing medicine and that’s an issue we have to face as well,” he explained.

“We do have a problem with certain medicines that are prescription-only, for instance certain pain relievers.

“They’re brought over the bridge.

“The most important thing to catch these trafficking rings is co-operation.

“The drugs are not being produced here, they are being imported, so co-operation, especially in GCC countries, is vital.”

One such case in March 2014 was highlighted in the latest UN Annual Report on the Availability of Internationally Controlled Drugs, which the GDN previously reported on, where “special joint operation between the drug enforcement administrations of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain resulted in the dismantling of a trafficking ring and the seizure of 22 million amphetamine tablets”.

“That case was highlighted [in the report] because it was distinctive, but we have constant co-operation with Gulf countries and with countries such as Spain and Britain,” added Dr Almerri.

The UN report for 2015 stated that a mission visited Bahrain in December 2014 to discuss the implementation of the three drug control
conventions including legislative and institutional measures taken by the government to control narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals.

Supply

“The national anti-drug strategy for the period 2010-2015 covers two major sectors of activity; drug supply reduction and demand reduction,” the report said.

“The substantive areas covered in discussions with the authorities of Bahrain included the implementation of a co-ordination mechanism established under the chairmanship of the Interior Ministry at the policymaking/ministerial level to develop national drug-related policies and ensure co-ordination among the relevant government stakeholders.

“The country is also facing the emergence of new psychoactive substances.

“Although it has introduced some changes to its consumer safety regulations to control new psychoactive substances, none of those emerging substances are currently scheduled under the national drug control law.

Policy

“Challenges persist in the implementation of drug control treaties in Bahrain, including the need for more data on drug use prevalence to inform drug control policy, and the limited availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical treatment.”

More than 330 drug smugglers were stopped from entering Bahrain in the first five months of last year, the GDN reported.

Dr Almerri said at the time that increased co-ordination between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia was helping authorities to track down smugglers. 

The 332 drug smuggling cases recorded between January and the end of May last year compares with 878 cases recorded in total in 2014.

laala@gdn.com.bh

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