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Kenya’s second-largest city becomes world's new drug trafficking hub

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REPORTERS FRANCE 24

The Kenyan city of Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, has become the capital of a new drug trafficking route. Heroin from Asia and cocaine from Latin America now transit through Kenya, before heading to Europe. FRANCE 24’s team reports.

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It’s an increasingly common sight off the East African coast, especially in Kenya: a ship from Pakistan with a cargo of heroin on board – containing poppies harvested in Afghanistan and refined in Pakistan. A few kilometres off the Kenyan coast, it’s joined by a small fishing boat.

In recent years, a new route has been opened up by international drug traffickers. And for good reason: the Kenyan coast is long and poorly monitored. No wonder, then, that’s it’s easy to smuggle drugs into the country.

Once delivered to Kenya, heroin – and sometimes also cocaine – is brought to Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city and the region’s biggest port. From there, smugglers have several options: taking a plane straight to Europe or Dubai; moving the drugs to the capital Nairobi to send them abroad more discreetly; or even sending them to South Africa or West Africa to use an even less obvious route.

A growing public health problem

Our reporters met drug mules, like David, who regularly ingest drugs to transport them discreetly and avoid security checks. It’s dangerous work, but extremely well-paid: David can earn up to €10,000 each time he smuggles drugs out of Kenya.

This illegal market, estimated in Kenya at more than €100 million a year, is constantly growing and has serious consequences for the health of Kenyans. Previously absent from the country, hard drugs – especially heroin – are now easy to find and at minimal cost: less than two euros a dose.

In Mombasa, the drug-trafficking hub, an estimated 3.5 percent of the population has already tried heroin. Estimates of frequent users range from 2,500 to 5,000. Drug use is becoming a growing public health problem because as well as the harmful effects of drugs, many users contract AIDS or hepatitis C due to a lack of precautions.

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