Schiphol drugs crackdown hailed as 'success'
26 July 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has claimed the reduced amount of drugs seized at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is proof that the crackdown against drug smuggling is working.
26 July 2004
AMSTERDAM — Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has claimed the reduced amount of drugs seized at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is proof that the crackdown against drug smuggling is working.
Donner said that thorough, total inspections imposed on "risk flights" were responsible for the decline, revealing that authorities seized just 80kg of cocaine in May compared with 500kg in January.
A total inspection means that a plane from a designated "risk nation" is thoroughly searched for drugs, including passengers and their luggage. The crackdown is designed to scare off would-be drugs couriers.
Previously, Donner admitted a policy of toleration was applied to flights coming from the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname. This was because customs and military police officers only had capacity to check about 50 passengers on each plane. It was believed that some smugglers were passing through customs undetected.
But the minister resolved in the Autumn of 2003 to impose tighter checks on risk flights or so-called "100 percent inspections", newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Monday.
Due to the expected increase in arrests, it was also decided that smugglers caught with less than 3kg of drugs would not have to appear in court to prevent the overburdening of the judicial system.
Instead, these smugglers would be placed on a blacklist, excluding them for several years from boarding flights with the airlines they originally travelled with.
The idea originated from main opposition party Labour PvdA and Donner agreed to the proposal, but not without political risk. Coalition government party Liberal VVD and the opposition populist LPF opposed it, while Donner's Christian Democrat CDA backed the move.
The LPF claimed that allowing smugglers with less than 3kg to go free would become a huge incentive to criminals and result in the Netherlands being swamped by cocaine.
But Donner responded on Friday 23 July to LPF questions about the initial results of the scheme and said the decline in the amount of drugs seized indicated the approach worked.
LPF MP Joost Eerdmans said he has heard from anonymous sources that due to the fact inspections on non-risk flights were so light, drug smugglers could easily pass through customs undetected.
Donner rejected this concern, claiming that the 100-percent inspections meant that couriers were increasingly trying to pass customs by swallowing the drugs.
Due to the fact that these so-called bolletjesslikkers can only smuggle about 1.3kg of drugs hidden in their stomach, the amount of seized drugs has thus declined, the minister said.
But the intensified inspections have led to complaints from several hundred passengers claiming they were incorrectly detained on drug smuggling suspicions. An expensive x-ray machine has thus been installed at Schiphol to allow passengers to quickly prove their innocence.
If the number of drug couriers sufficiently declines, the minister can then decide to also prosecute the ones that only smuggle less than 3kg of drugs, but the situation has not improved thus far.
Despite this, Donner believes the approach is working and is keen for it to become a permanent feature at Schiphol.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news