West and Central African states are planning to create a joint coastguard force to fight piracy, pollution, illegal fishing and clandestine migration along their shores, a regional maritime official said on Friday.
Magnus Teye Addico, secretary-general of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), told Reuters the integrated force could be operational from mid-2007.
A technical meeting in Abidjan this week was finalising the plans for the organisation's 25 member countries to pool their currently scarce naval resources to pursue pirates, terrorists and illegal fishermen or intercept migrants en route to Europe.
"These things need collaboration. If the (migrants or pirates) leave your borders, your territorial waters, you can't pursue them anymore," said Addico, who is from Ghana.
"That is why we are bringing all the countries together to cooperate," he added.
The need for a regional coastguard was highlighted on Friday when gunmen in speedboats abducted eight foreign workers in a raid on an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria.
Mauritania and Senegal were also trying to halt waves of illegal migrants heading north towards Europe in open boats.
Under the integrated coastal security plan, up to six countries along a different sector of the coast would carry out joint patrols with the right of hot pursuit. This would enable vessels of one member state to cross into its neighbours' waters to catch fleeing suspects or offenders.
"Immigrants, smuggling, child trafficking to other areas will be checked because the coastguard will have power to board boats and see what's up," Addico said.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Maybe. Reported here: