Beefing Up Eastern Frontiers Against Illicit Drug Trafficking

Beefing Up Eastern Frontiers Against Illicit Drug TraffickingBeefing Up Eastern Frontiers Against Illicit Drug Trafficking

President Hassan Rouhani recently approved allocation of $118 million for further securing the eastern borders, said Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, interior minister.

“Beefing up border security will help check smuggling of contraband drugs, fuel smuggling and human trafficking on the eastern borders,” IRNA quoted him as saying.  

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Tehran Province Anti-Drug Coordinating Council, he stressed that the borders with Afghanistan should be reinforced.

“The funds will be spent to reinforce areas that are porous along the borders,” Rahmani Fazli said.

Iran also shares a common border with Pakistan, but with the construction of the Iran-Pakistan border barrier, “this part of the eastern border is safer now than before,” he said.

However, according to Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Police Chief Ali Moayedi, narcotics smuggling continues through the Iran-Pak border.

The Iran-Pakistan border barrier under construction to replace an intermittent tattered fence, is a 3 ft (91.4 cm) thick and 10 ft (3.05 m) high concrete wall, fortified with steel rods, that will span 700 km from Taftan to Mand, border cities located in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province.

Iran’s former police chief Brigadier General Esmayeel Ahmadi Moqaddam last October had announced that the country’s eastern borders will be fully sealed by 2015 to make penetration by terrorists and drug traffickers impossible.

“Sealing border roads and deployment of border (guards) units in the remaining parts will be completed this year (ended March 20) and “if Parliament approves the funds, the task will be accomplished in one year.” The eastern borders will be blocked even for tresspassers in the next three years, he added.

 Porous Borders

Dotting Iran’s eastern borders on the 936 km stretch shared with Afghanistan and 909 km segment shared with Pakistan are numerous entry points for smuggled opiates.

Drug trafficking is a major challenge for Iran. Its geographical location, particularly the porous 1,923 km-long eastern border with Afghanistan - the world’s largest illicit opium producer - and Pakistan, has turned it into a major transit country for illicit drugs. In response to the challenge, Iran has built one of the strongest counter-narcotics enforcement capabilities in the region over the years. According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2014, Iran accounted for 74% of the world’s opium seizures and 25% of the world’s heroin and morphine seizures in 2012.

Iran spends millions of dollars annually on border control, including construction of expensive barriers. More than 3,700 national law enforcement officials have been killed and over 12,000 have been maimed in counter-narcotics operations over the last three decades.

In addition to opium and heroin trafficking, the country also faces emerging trends of illicit production and trafficking in Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS). Over the last few years, there has been a sudden increase of reported seizures of high purity crystalline Methamphetamine (locally known as “shisheh”).

On fighting drug addiction, Rahmani Fazli said the measures taken have been effective as seen in the price of industrial drugs that has shot up three times in the current year (started March 21).

“Increase in the price of industrial drugs is due to large-scale seizure by police of raw materials used in their manufacturing,” he added.  

Tehran Municipality should increase the capacity of detention centers for drug addicts as police are prepared to round them up from Tehran streets “within 10 days,” if there is enough capacity to house them.

 Joint Strategy

Last month, Commander of the Iranian Army’s Border Guards Brigadier General Qasem Rezaie, had declared that Iran’s eastern borders “are among the safest.”

Rezaie in an interview with IRNA in August on the sidelines of the 4th Nationwide Conference of Iranian border guards in Mashhad in Korasan Razavi Province, in which Afghanistan’s border guard commanders were also present, said nationwide meetings are held regularly once every three months “to achieve a joint strategy to confront border security violations.”

He said the problems in South Khorasan Province are mainly due to drug trafficking. Rezaie said the long Iran-Afghanistan border necessitates convening joint meetings periodically to strengthen interaction and cooperation.

Commander of Border Guards of Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Rahmatollah Rufyavi, said timely exchange of information and cooperation will help check narcotic drugs trafficking and “we will spare no effort to establish sustainable security along the common borders.”