Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pahad warns on drugs crime

The Citizen

South Africa - Too many South Africans are falling “easy victims” to the lure of drug money, says Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad.

The number of citizens currently being held in foreign prisons for drug-related crimes was of great concern, he told a media briefing at Parliament on Wednesday.

However, while complaints about conditions in certain foreign prisons had been noted by government, it had no intention of bringing any of these prisoners back home to serve their sentence.

“Unfortunately, South Africa has become a major centre for drugs transmission from many parts of the world. More problematically, too many South African (citizens) have been arrested as (drug) couriers.”

They were being held in many parts of the world, “not only Africa, but Latin America, Asia and elsewhere”.

Government was now looking at starting a programme to educate people about such crime, and “try to warn our people... that they are becoming easy victims to the lure of money” by acting as drug couriers.

Sentences in foreign countries were often “quite harsh”.

While government sympathised with many of the families of the prisoners, “there is very little we can do because government has no intention of bringing back any prisoners who are imprisoned for drug-related issues”.

South African embassy and consulate officials in the foreign countries visited such prisoners “on a regular basis”, but clearly the conditions were not as good as they were at home, Pahad said.

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