Roger Middleton: Only by tackling poverty can piracy be eradicated

Pirates made around $100m last year, while the government of their region has an annual budgetof $25m

Share
Related Topics

The release of Rachel and Paul Chandler brings to an end the highest profile and longest running incident of Somali piracy – and while their family and supporters will delight in the reunion, many others are still waiting for their relatives to be released. Despite huge international attention and millions of dollars spent on counter-piracy operations, hundreds of sailors are still being held by pirates.

The core of the problem lies in Somalia. As long as a political situation exists that allows criminality to flourish it is very hard for the navies of the world to put an end to this problem. Pirates can be chased on the ocean, but piracy can only be eradicated on land.

Pirates have proved remarkably adaptive in the face of increased pressure. Once they operated within 50 miles of the Somali coast; now they regularly work over 1,000 miles from Somalia. Navies have made the Gulf of Aden very difficult for pirates but all that has done is to displace the problem into the wider Indian Ocean.

The multi-national naval response has, considering its limited resources, been effective and has captured hundreds of pirates. But the reality remains that most of the ocean across which Somali pirates operate is unprotected, and for every pirate taken there are many more ready to replace him.

For piracy remains an exceptionally lucrative exercise. In the last few weeks ransom payments of $7m and $9m have been made. Even the most expendable links in the piracy operation, the young men who go out on small plastic boats to capture ships, will make around $10,000 for a successful attack – more than 10 times what they could otherwise expect to earn in a year.

Piracy is such big business that its value dwarfs everything but remittances from Somalia's huge diaspora in the amount of money it brings into the country. Pirates made around $100m last year while the regional government of Puntland, where most pirate leaders hail from, has an annual budget of $25m. International efforts to build government in Somalia in the last two decades have been a failure but home-grown solutions in the north of the country have been remarkably successful.

In the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland in the north-west piracy is not a problem. The key is the effectiveness of the Somaliland government; it is widely accepted by the people and saw a peaceful democratic transfer of power earlier this year.

It is the growth of effective government in other parts of Somalia that will create the environment for tackling the connected problems of piracy, poverty, war, hunger, people smuggling and gun running.

As pirates become richer they become harder to dislodge. So, as we celebrate the return of the Chandlers, we should not forget the hundreds of sailors still held by pirates, nor the people of Somalia whose attempts to improve their country are undermined by crime lords.

The writer is the author of a Chatham House report on piracy

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high