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|Commander of Yemeni Coast Guard Forces Ali Ahmed Ras’ee:|
:“Somali smugglers are inhuman and they are criminals in the true sense of the meaning. They transport immigrants in old and wrecked boats, and they do not commit themselves to their capacity. A boat that holds 10 will be loaded with 30, and one that holds 40 will be amassed with 100 people.”
( YEMEN POST STAFF )
Article Date: May 5, 2008
Commander of Yemeni Coast Guard Forces Administration Ali Ahmed Ras'ee is a graduate of the Police Academy, and holds a degree in law, and a high diploma in economy.
In his interview with the Yemen Post, Ras'ee points out that the support of coalition forces to the coastguard harmed the country more than it benefited. Below are the details:
Yemen Post: What are the tasks of the coastguard forces?
Ali Ras'ee: The tasks of coastguard forces are stipulated in the establishment decree, and these tasks are varied. The coastguard forces have security and not military functions, including keeping order in Yemeni ports and launching patrols in Yemeni coasts and regional waters. Other tasks are limiting illegal immigration, protecting national waters against indiscriminate fishing, protecting environment against pollution, fighting piracy, rescue and search activities.
YP: You spoke of several hard tasks, do you have enough resources to do all these tasks, especially when the country has a coastal line stretching about 2400 km?
AR: Our administration was launched five years ago, which means that we are new. I would like all to understand that Yemen's coastal lines which stretch over 2,000 km is remote, and lacks any infra-structure. This makes the tasks of the coastguard difficult.
The second thing is that the activity of coastguard forces is new to the Interior Ministry, and this makes us face complex challenges; however, we managed under the support of the political leadership and Interior Ministry to establish a specialized unit. We divided the coastal line into three sectors: Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Arab Sea Sector. We are now providing the infra-structure to Aden Gulf Sector which extends 500 km, and stretches from Al-Khoukhah to Abyan. We will also have existence in Miyon Island located in the middle of Bab Al-Mandab Strait soon.
YP: Some say that you are incapable of hunting pirates or drug traders, and you just receive ships and boats that coalition forces seize?
AR: Yemen has been badly affected by terrorism and it works jointly with friendly countries and the international community in fighting terrorism. Security work is built on investigation and exchange of information. In this respect, we managed to achieve success in fighting drug and commodities smuggling in all places in which coastguard forces exist. This forced smugglers to head to places where we do not exist.
YP: Do you think that the resolution of establishing coastguard forces came late?
AR: I consider it to be so, and the establishment of the coastguards was forced by the events the country witnessed in the past like the attacks of the USS Cole and French Tanker Limburg.
YP: Still, we can say that you do nothing but receive the seized ships sent by coalition forces working in the area?
AR: We coordinate with coalition forces and neighboring countries and this is the nature of security work in a way that serves both, the world navigation and Yemen.
YP: But you received a Pakistani ship from coalition forces boarding 10 ton of drugs two weeks ago, didn't you?
AR: We did not receive any ship from coalition forces, and we seized the ship and its crew after we received certain information. We actively work for arresting drug traders. This is not the first time; however, it was the biggest quantity we have ever seized.
YP: What do you do with the seized drug cargos?
AR: We destroy any seized quantity of drugs, and only 10 kg of it is sent back to the general administration for fighting drugs. The whole process is documented in minutes.
YP: How much is the quantity of drugs you seized so far?
AR: Excluding what we mentioned about the Pakistani ship, we have so far seized five ships, and before that an Iranian ship loading 2 tons of drugs.
YP: Have you been subjected to threats, haggle or pressures by drug dealers?
AR: We are a security institution and we fear none but god. We deeply believe in our work and duty, and we care for the country's interest and security.
YP: Are you capable of facing smugglers?
AR: We have participated in over 50 launches, and we have a trained cadre to take on such tasks and activities.
YP: Do you cooperate with countries in the training sector?
AR: We have a Yemeni cadre to train our soldiers and officers, and we as well send them to the UK, Malaysia and Pakistan for the same purpose.
YP: How do you deal with pirates?
AR: Pirates exist in areas having security problems, and the Somali issue has overshadowed the world navigation in the Gulf of Aden. Some pirates want to signal to the international community that they have an issue; while others are forced by circumstances and need to do so. I implore on the international community to work for solving the Somali issue.
YP: What about illegal immigrants?
AR: The issue of illegal immigrants is one of the biggest problems we face, and it is for this that I asked the international community to help restore security and stability to Somalia. Illegal immigrants are seeking to escape the hell they face in their home countries and go other places. Yemen has distinct relations with Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa, which causes many to come here. We are the only country in the area that signed the convention relating to the rights of refugees, and the only country that receives them despite the limited resources.
YP: Some say that you are to blame for the drowning of illegal immigrants' as smugglers fearing your launches force immigrants to jump into the sea before reaching the coasts?
AR: We don't target illegal immigrants and, on the contrary, we provide them with protection. We just hunt after smugglers, and we work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We hunt the smugglers ships after they get the immigrants down and several smugglers have already been referred to the judiciary.
YP: But, you are to blame because smugglers fear that you will arrest them or seize their ships. This forces them to throw immigrants in the wide sea, causing the death of hundreds?
AR: First of all, Somali smugglers are inhuman and they are criminals in the true sense of the meaning. They transport immigrants in old and wrecked boats, and they do not commit themselves to their capacity. A boat that holds 10 will be loaded with 30 and one that holds 40 will be amassed with 100.
Second, when there is overload, they force people on board to jump into the sea under the threat of arms.
Even if what you say is true, we can't let these smugglers practice their dirty jobs, and we have to protect our regional waters.
YP: Do you have cooperation with countries targeted by drug dealers and illegal immigrants?
AR: Drug trading is among the things fought globally and because our administration is still new, we don't have any cooperation with our brothers in Oman or Saudi Arabia to fight drug trading.
Further, illegal immigration does not target our country as 70 percent of those who cross Gulf of Aden go to the Gulf and European countries as well as America. There should be joint cooperation with Gulf countries and European countries like France, Britain and Italy to curb such a phenomenon. The European Union has supported Spain to fight illegal immigration, though it is a rich country and not poor like Yemen.
YP: Have you talked to Gulf and European countries on this matter?
AR: We have raised the matter before our European friends and they show understanding of it. We were to hold a conference to discuss the issue of illegal immigrants; however, it was postponed.
YP: Do you not see that the foreign policy of war on terror has helped you a lot?
AR: We are allying with countries fighting terrorism, because our country has suffered a lot. However, I would like to assure that what has been achieved was made under local support. There has been limited support for other countries.
YP: But how do you say that support of foreign countries is of disadvantage though you are the beneficial party?
AR: It is of disadvantage because people as well as high ranking officials believe that coalition countries provide us with unlimited support even at the level of budget. When we ask for our budget from the Ministry of Finance, they tell us that we are a supported institution, therefore, we neither receive support from foreign countries nor a budget from the government as others. I again assure that our administration has been established with Yemeni resources and we receive limited support from some friendly countries and we thank them for that.
YP: Do you feel that officials who have close relations with smugglers, especially those who smuggle diesel, feel harmed by coastguards?
AR: The task of the coastguard forces is to fight smuggling, whether of drugs, commodities, or fuel. In this respect, we accomplished success, and such a success prompted Interior Minister Rashad Al-Alimi, political leadership and citizens to praise our efforts. We perform our tasks according to laws and we don’t care about who is to be affected and who is not. One of our main objectives is to fight corruption and we will not hesitate to fight it.
YP: Recently we heard of big quantities of pesticide smuggled through Mocha Port?
AR: We do not operate there, and Mocha port is still controlled by the armed forces. We are working now to take over the responsibility in Mocha and Al-Mukalla ports.
YP: What about fishing boats and ships?
AR: By the time we established our administration, Al-Shmou'a newspaper reported then that coastguard forces receive $3,000 from each fishing ship in return for allowing them to fish. I wrote back to the paper and told them we do not have any branch in Al-Mahrah. We came to know later that a brigade called coastguard was meant by that report and not us.
YP: What about weapon cargos and terrorists?AR: We, in collaboration with coalition forces, managed to seize weapon cargos as we arrested a group of Yemenis, Somalis and Ethiopians over the last couple of months. This was announced at the time we seized these weapons and we sent them to state storehouses.