By Amin Kef – Ranger
The Deputy EU Head of Delegation, Jamila El Assaidi, has said that it is important for Sierra Leone to endow itself not only with a sound legal framework but also with strong law enforcement agencies and legal framework to tackle crimes at Sea. She also underlined the importance of addressing the root causes of maritime insecurity and the problems that affect livelihoods of local communities and the ecological conservation of coastal areas.
Hosted at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel, the workshop is organised in the framework of the EU funded “Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security Programme” (SWAIMS) Programme, implemented by UNODC.
The Deputy Head of the EU Delegation , Jamila El Assaidi in her statement said it is an honour to introduce discussions and exchanges on the State of play of Sierra Leone’s legal framework for the fight against maritime crime.
She highlighted that the Gulf of Guinea, a coastal area stretching from Senegal to Angola, represents 6,000 km of coastline adding that on any given day, there are around 1,500 fishing vessels, tankers, and cargo ships navigating its waters.
Jamila argued that Piracy and illegal maritime activity cannot be tackled by any Government operating alone maintaining that States and organisations operating in the region must continue working together to agree on an approach that suits all their maritime security interests.
She said that is why as European Union they collaborated with all 18 coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea.
“As part of its Gulf of Guinea Action Plan, the EU works to raise awareness and understanding of maritime security threats, to reinforce organisations working at the regional and national level, to strengthen cooperation between national, regional, and international actors, and to promote more prosperous and resilient coastal economies and communities,” she maintained.
According to her in such a context, strengthening legal, governance and law enforcement frameworks to better support maritime security is a key priority of their partnership with the countries of the region stating that it is a priority which is receiving growing attention, and rightly so.
She said that piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea appears to be worse than ever.
“The ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 84 attacks on ships in 2020, up from the 64 in 2019 and 50 in 2018,” the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation said maintaining that the region is now the site of over 90% of the world’s reported kidnappings at sea.
Incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are particularly dangerous as over 80% of attackers are armed with guns.
It is recorded that Sierra Leone for the time accounts for a limited number of reported incidents of armed robbery and piracy: “only” four cases in 2017, two cases in 2018 and one important case in 2019.
However, it is stated that these data must be approached with caution as figures are susceptible to under-reporting and problems of definition.
Recorded also is that piracy and armed robbery constitute only a few amongst the matters of concern in the Sierra Leone maritime area.
Anchored was that the most numerous unlawful acts committed within the maritime area of Sierra Leone are in fact related to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and drug trafficking. Others relate to weapons trafficking, trafficking in persons, marine pollution and dumping of toxic waste.
She stated that the EU acknowledged and praises the commitment by the national authorities of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS and UNODC to make strides on those important topics.
She concluded that it is their hope that the workshop will contribute towards the establishment of a roadmap of legal reforms, strong maritime policies, governance mechanisms and institutions, and the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the collection of evidence at sea, and its use in court.
Jamila maintained that the policy and strategy will address the root causes of socio-economic instability which expose coastal communities to crime.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper