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

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 Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral