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No room in our jails for Somali pirates, says Seychelles president

media Seychelles President James Michel RFI

Thanks to Somali pirates, the most dangerous waters in the world lie off the Horn of Africa. But Seychelles President James Michel tells RFI that his country’s jails are full and he does not have the means to respond to international pressure to tackle piracy.

“Our resources are stretched already,” says Michel, speaking at the French-speaking nations summit in Switzerland this weekend. “Our prisons are full. We need more resources, more help, more capacity building to be able to try the pirates, we need more legal support – we need a lot of things.”

Exclusive interview
Seychelles President James Michel 25/10/2010 - by Alexandra Brangeon Listen

Somali pirates carried out 35 of the 39 maritime hijackings this year, according to the Paris-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Despite increased efforts to combat piracy, results have been mixed: overall incidents are down, but hijackings are up slightly, resulting in 773 abductions of people by pirates so far this year.

Warships from the European Union, Nato and other countries are currently patrolling the Indian Ocean, but the Director of the IMB says that, realistically, such a vast area cannot be completely covered.

And there is no overall plan to prosecute pirates captured in international waters.

Currently, Kenya and the Seychelles are the only regional states to have signed accords to try pirates caught by the foreign navies.

Michel was at the francophones summit to lobby for more international help in his country’s effort against the pirates. There will be little progress if the international community does not increase aid to the Seychelles.

With over one-third of the United Nations a part of the International Organisation of la Francophonie, the organisation has become an effective forum for multilateral political efforts.

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden was one of the main subjects at the organisation’s 13th summit in Montreux on 22-24 October.

Michel praised the efforts of other states in the region which have become involved, singling out China, India, Mauritius and Kenya for praise. While their efforts are a testament to the concern of the international community, Michel said, other regional countries must do more and so must the UN.

“The world has to put together resources to be able to address this problem, not only in the Seychelles but at all the level that is required to get the problem resolved,” Michel says.

The meeting of the Summit of Francophones is a good forum to address the issue, he believes, but actions and resources, not just words, are needed.

“We have to not just raise awareness and not just put pressure on the UN, but put pressure everywhere so a solution can be found,” said Michel.

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