September 8, 2013 (KAMPALA) - A new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says more than 100,000 people were smuggled out of East Africa last year, bringing in $15 million for criminal gangs operating in the region.
The report, titled “Transnational Organised Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment”, was released on 4 September.
The UNODC said more than 100,000 people paid smugglers to transport them across the Gulf of Aden or Red Sea to Yemen in 2012, in what was one of the key findings of the report.
The UN report says about 80,000 of the 100,000 migrants who attempted to cross into Saudi Arabia from Yemen were “waylaid by smugglers and subjected to a range of abuses, including confinement, beatings, extortion and rape”.
The report also noted an increase in the heroin trade in the East African region.
“Heroin has been trafficked to and through Eastern Africa since at least the 1980s, but a series of recent large seizures suggests that this flow has increased”, the report said, adding that East Africa has become a regional hub for the illegal sale of the drug and that the local market is now worth millions of dollars.
“The local market is estimated to consume at least 2.5 tonnes of pure heroin per year, worth some $160 million. The volumes trafficked to the region appear to be much larger, as much as 22 tonnes”, the report said.
Despite the quantity, researches noted that East Africa acts mainly as a transit point for drugs destined for South Africa and West Africa.
A weakness in the rule of law and a growing illicit market are the primary drivers of the drug trade, according to the UNODC.
The report recommends strengthening law enforcement measures in order to make the East African region less attractive to drug traffickers.