Somalia blames piracy on toxic waste dumps

African leaders meeting to discuss maritime security have said there are numerous social and environmental problems at the root of the rise of piracy off the east coast of the continent - including contaminated land.

Somalia, seen as Africa’s piracy capital, has been largely lawless since the early 1990s.

With no effective patrols of its borders, say the country’s leaders, its vast coastline has become a dumping ground for unscrupulous ship operators who unload their cargo of toxic waste on Somali shores to avoid the costs of proper disposal.

Speaking at a meeting of the African Union in Ethiopia this week, Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdulrahman Adan Ibrahim Ibbi said: “If the international community wants to limit acts of piracy, it has to help Somalis keep illegal foreign fishing and toxic waste dumping away from their coasts.

He also claimed that the tsunami of 2004 had exposed many poorly-buried illegal caches of waste when it washed away tonnes of sand and soil.

Mr Ibbi called on other African states to share the cost of cleaning up sites allegedly contaminated with toxic and nuclear waste.

Somali pirates have often accused their victims of dumping waste or illegal fishing to justify their capture.

They sometimes claim that the ransoms they demand are to compensate for the misdeeds of the crews they hold hostage, in an attempt to give their actions a veneer of legitimacy.

While those companies and governments that pay ransoms are usually tight-lipped when it comes to disclosing the figures paid, it is believed that pirates in the regions receive around $60m per year through their activities.

Sam Bond

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