News from EU4Monitoring Drugs, an EMCDDA technical cooperation project

This content was published in the EU4MD update released on 16.04.2021. This update also presents a section on partnerships, annoucements, studies, upcoming events, and a research corner.

Focus on: Methamphetamine trade in Iran

This report builds on the study published by the EMCDDA on the Afghan methamphetamine trade and addresses the threats posed by Iran’s potential emergence as a transhipment point for Afghan methamphetamine, as suggested by a reported increase of methamphetamine seizures originating from Iran and bound for countries in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The report is the result of research conducted under the EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) project, funded by the European Commission.

Iran is a key transhipment point for illicit drugs along the Balkan and Southern trafficking routes. Seizures of methamphetamine, which is known locally as ‘shisheh’ (meaning ‘glass’ in Persian), increased dramatically between March 2019 and March 2020, with almost 17 tonnes seized and a 208% increase compared with the previous year.

The study is based on interviews with Iranian drug treatment practitioners, law enforcement officers, United Nations officials, and key informants involved in drug supply, in combination with an analysis of more than 70 Iranian newspaper articles and several Turkish, Kurdish, and Australian news articles to outline the scale of methamphetamine trafficking from Iran.

Spotlight on Lybia

What are the main drug-related challenges facing Libya?

The drug-related challenges that Libya faces cannot be dissociated from the country’s political and socio-economic situation, which affects the efficiency of our units charged with addressing drugs issues. This situation may also have implications on how our administration can keep the pace required for rapid information exchange, intelligence developments and improving the technical and professional skills of staff.

There has been a proliferation of the trade in illicit weapons in the central and southern regions of the country. We have observed that smugglers use more remote areas and opt for routes crossing the desert: these are vast areas requiring control, which is challenging for the administration. In many places, organised crime groups establish close relationships with local communities, which may help and facilitate an on-going illicit trade. Another concern is how the money gained from drug trafficking influences the private sector and the performance of the administration in general. This link between drug trafficking, terrorism and money laundering is particularly problematic for us, especially because we have not yet developed enough investigative capacities in the area of money laundering.

Other issues to address are the lack of effective controls on the import and turnover of chemical precursors, unregulated trade in legal goods and weak control mechanisms for air freight and courier companies. We should also remember illegal immigration, boosted by regional and international organised crime groups. The same groups may also be involved in drug trafficking.

Rapid changes in the new psychoactive substances appearing on the market, as well as difficulty in adapting laws and control of these substances are factors that contribute to the spread of drugs.

Faced with so many concerns, there is no debate on drug-related harms and we see a lot of misinformation in the media.

What are the current health and security threats related to drugs?

The most common health threats we see associated with drug use in Libya are HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C infections and mental health disorders. In terms of security, our concern is drug-related criminal offences. There are many armed robberies and domestic violence crimes.  

What has been done to address the challenges posed by drugs?

The Libyan authorities acknowledge the challenges they face, and are continuously adopting measures to address them. I can say in all confidence that international cooperation is one of our priorities. I would like to underline the importance of the cooperation with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in the framework of the EU4Monitoring drugs project.

Where and how can the EU4MD project make a difference?

We see this project as an opportunity to increase the professional skills of the staff working in my department. We would like to continue exchanging good practices on how to address identified drug-related threats and participate in capacity-building activities and experience-sharing forums offered by the Agency.