CARIBBEAN countries are concerned about the impact Britain’s decision to pull warships out of the region will have on the fight against drug runners.
As reported in The News, the navy has abandoned warship patrols in the Caribbean for the first time since the Second World War because of defence cuts.
Royal Montserrat Police Force Deputy Commissioner Paul Morris called the decision ‘dreadful’
He said: ‘They generally have success on every six-month tour and on the last tour about three or four boats with drugs were intercepted.
‘Their greatest impact is being a deterrent which prevents more people from using the region as a transshipment point. That is even more significant than the interceptions.’
The Ministry of Defence said the navy will continue to provide a permanent presence in the Caribbean but this will be provided by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship enhanced with a naval party and helicopter during the core hurricane season. Drug patrols will be few and far between.
Barbados’ Police Commissioner Darwin Dottin said the partial withdrawal would be a ‘serious blow’ in the fight against the illegal drug trade.
He said: ‘The region is sandwiched between the drug-producing countries and the drug-consuming countries and it is going to have an impact.
‘We’ve been boosting our capacity over time, acquired significant maritime assets for the Coast Guard, installed coastal radar and we continue to improve our intelligence system. But it means we have to work harder to ensure that all of these elements come together for the protection of Barbados’ security.’
A further concern is that while the ships are usually within two sailing days of the islands, the reduction will mean that small British Overseas Territories could be without cover if an evacuation was necessary.