2:00 P.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today we have Donna Hopkins, our Coordinator for Counter Piracy and Maritime Security at the Department of State, and Francois Rivasseau, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to the United States. They’re going to talk about counter piracy for about 10 minutes or so, 20 minutes, and then we’ll open up to questions.
So without further ado, take it away, Donna.
MS. HOPKINS: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure for me to be here today. You probably know that the United States has passed the chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to the European Union, to the EU External Action Service, specifically for the 2014 chairmanship. The EU has been a strong partner since the inception of the Contact Group in 2009, and we’re very pleased that they accepted the chairmanship for 2014. This is a recognition of the EU’s leadership on the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia as well as a strategic opportunity to coalesce their several missions and operations in the Horn of Africa relating to piracy, building maritime security, and returning stability to the east coast of Africa.
Before I give the floor to my colleague from the European Union, I’d like to give you a short overview. The Contact Group on Piracy off of the Coast of Somalia – the Contact Group, or CGPCS – was established in January 2009 to bring coherence to the many efforts then ongoing to counter the emerging piracy crisis off the coast of Somalia. Since then, the Contact Group has grown to an open and vital architecture of 80 nations and organizations, including the entire spectrum of stakeholders – different ministries, international and nongovernmental organizations, many sectors of the maritime industry, and representatives of civil society.
The figures speak for themselves. There has been no piracy hijacking off the coast of Somalia since May 10th 2012, over 20 months. This is the lowest rate of attempted hijackings in over six years, and certainly since the peak of the crisis in 2011. No ships are currently held hostage by Somali pirates, although there remain at least 49 hostages whom the international community are working to free.
The remarkable drop in piracy is due primarily to two things: first, proactive counter-piracy operations by the many national navies and missions that are preventing and disrupting pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the eastern Indian Ocean, and better self-protection by commercial ships, including the use of embarked armed security teams. But also it is important to note that there is better prosecution of this crime. Over 1,400 pirates and suspected pirates are in courts or in prisons in 21 countries. Effective prosecution of piracy in the courts of affected states, especially of flag states, is a very important priority.
However, there is still much work to be done. The fundamental conditions along the Somali coast have not changed, and if we drop our guard, piracy will return. We are all working with the new Somali Government [in] Mogadishu as they grapple to rebuild their state, but in the meantime we must not be complacent regarding piracy. We will continue to focus on disrupting the shore-based criminal organizations that fund and facilitate piracy. And this is an international law enforcement effort to bring to justice the handful of kingpins who operate this terrible enterprise.
With that, I’d like to give the floor to my colleague, Mr. Francois Rivasseau of the European Union.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Thank you, Donna. Good afternoon, all of you, and thank you for being with us today. It’s indeed an important issue, the issue of piracy and counter-piracy. And since the very beginning, when piracy began to develop, particularly on the shores of Somalia, the European countries and the European Union as a follow-up have developed their involvement there in conjunction with other international organizations and countries. And that’s why we are honored this year to get the presidency, the chairmanship of this Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
You know that here we have one of the first purely European military operations there. We call this operation Operation Atalanta. We have changed with the time and the rotations, but usually an average four to seven warships in the region plus some two or three maritime patrol reconnaissance aircrafts. And this provides us with the capability of being not only recognized within the ‘coalition of willing’ who are present in the area but also to play an important role directed to disrupt their piracy operations.
As you know, European ships have – and European forces present in the region have quite vigorous rules of engagement. Maybe we shall compare, but I think they are slightly more ambitious than yours including because they don’t prevent us necessarily to conduct pointed operation on short directed to disrupt capabilities or onshore capabilities of support for piracy operations. We have conducted at least one.
And now we are very honored to take over this chairmanship from you, Donna, and on our side the EU chair is physically Artur Kłopotowski, a Polish member of the European External Action Service, who is one of the deputies – Secretary General of European External Action Service. And this decision was made in Djibouti November 2013 under your chairmanship, and where we discussed the future of the Contact Group. And we have made clear that a point at which we have a function and working modalities of the Contact Group need to be adapted to a prevailing situation, which, as you recall, Donna, is a much better situation than the one we did find even one year ago: diminution of more than 80 percent of the attacks, no ships taken this year. This is really the proof that with enough involvement and will, we can achieve results.
And then we have to prepare a new organization for the group. We have had a strategy meeting in Paris on the 28th of January of this year, supported and hosted by the EU. Particularly, we have an institute in Paris, which is the Institute for Security Studies and this institute which did support the strategy meeting. We had over 45 countries, international organizations, and NGOs participating in the event, and we have a number of recommendations which came out of this group for the future of action – international action against piracy. We have to make our action more cost-effective and efficient and making, for example, better use of internet video conference, et cetera, et cetera.
We have to restructure the [Contact] Group [on] piracy. You have the number of working group inside it – first one, or the capacity-building group, in any international operation ranging from the most ambitious one to the smallest one. The very difficult phase is what we call the generation of force, and so a capacity-building group will be refocusing to make countries of a region taking a bigger ownership of a process. That’s one of the main ideas. This working group will meet twice a year and is co-chaired by UK on our side for European Union.
Second working group will deal with legal aspects. You know how legal issues around piracy are complex, ranging from what can you do to stop pirates attack, to how and where can you put them in jail, and where can you judge them, under which law. Portugal will assume the chair of this forum after a plenary in New York, and we hope to find a co-chair from the region.
We have a third working group which will be renamed Maritime Counter Piracy and Mitigation Operation, and the idea is to bring there all the stakeholders, industry, navies, seafarers, et cetera, which will develop a prevention agenda. And we shall build up a priority on the lessons learned in the Horn of Africa to possibly [make] use of [them in] other areas in the world, because you know piracy is not limited, unfortunately, to the Horn of Africa. You have two other important areas: Gulf of Guinea in Western Africa and around Singapore and South China Sea and Indian Ocean, all these region. You have also a number of piracy activities. We have to see what is specific to Somalia here and what we have learned there and what can be successfully implemented in other regions. This would be also part of our mission, lessons learned. And we are trying to work with the Lessons Learned Consortium.
Then we have the fourth group which was chaired by Egypt, which was aimed at public messaging and raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy. We consider it has fulfilled its mandate and it was closed down. But we remain with the last working group, which is renamed Disrupting Pirate Networks Ashore, and we will continue to focus on financial flows, tracking, and arresting piracy kingpins, trying to get asset freeze or asset recovery, and we are going to try to be more technical and operational by incorporating more specific expertise of fighting against illegal financial flows. And we’ve specific dimension of law enforcement expertise, and Italy will remain the co-chair of this group, and we hope that the Seychelles government could be a second co-chair.
So these are the kind of reflections on which we are going to build up our action this year, and we will submit this recommendation and listen to all the participants of a group in the next meeting that we’ll have in New York on 14th of May.
What are our priorities other than new chairmanship here? We have specific responsibility in one sense. The situation has improved, but the risk remains. It is not because we have had such a diminution of attacks that we know that the risk has disappeared. We see a number of suspicious approaches, we see still a number of attacks which we have been able to deter. So we have to continually report at the appropriate level. And we may have to think about what to do in other areas of the world also based on our experience there.
So we shall try to have three main priorities. One is to refine and optimize the structures and working procedures of a group to make it more relevant, cost-effective, and efficient. We’ve – this idea of increasing the regional ownership of the operations. That’s the first priority.
Second priority will be what we call the zero-zero approach, zero ships and zero seafarers in the hands of Somali pirates. You know that we have, as you say, about 49 seafarers still not free, and we have to respond to this human tragedy. Some of the seafarers have more than 1,000 days of captivity already, and we think of them.
And third, lessons learned, as I said. We want to be sure that the lessons learned through your presidency and your predecessors and all that are kept, made fruitful, and used appropriately. And we intend to give them some publicity to that. And we have a program of meetings from – next meeting will be distributed to Kłopotowski (inaudible) 5th March, then the meeting in New York the 14th of May. We shall have our classic Counter-Piracy Week one day short to make economies in October, November, probably. And we shall publish our lessons learned by UISS this year also.
With that, I stop and I listen to your questions, maybe together with Donna.
MODERATOR: As we move to the Q&A portion of the event, can I ask that you please state your name and publication for the transcript, limit yourself to no multipart questions until we get everyone around the table to have a chance to ask, and please keep your focus of your questions on counter-piracy off of Somalia.
QUESTION: Dmitry Kirsanov of ITAR-TASS. Let me ask you about two other actors in the African region, namely Russia and China. Does it make sense to have operational cooperation between the EU, U.S., Russia and China, or it’s strictly information exchanged?
MS. HOPKINS: Oh no, we operate closely with Russia and China both, and they have both been very active and cooperative and productive partners. That’s one of the strengths of the Contact Group. It’s a very wide, diverse group of countries and organizations that cooperate very well together. I would say it’s a bright star in multilateral cooperation, and Russia and China are two very important actors. I would also mention that South Korea, Japan, and even Iran have been very helpful on this issue.
MR. RIVASSEAU: India. Even India.
MS. HOPKINS: India is a very important member of the Contact Group and, in fact, chaired a plenary. There is almost no littoral country, no naval country, and no major shipping country that has not contributed actively to the Contact Group. And the two that you’ve mentioned have been very important partners.
MR. RIVASSEAU: And if I may add, we all remember a number of episodes where Russian or Chinese ships were exchanging information with European ships – French, Italian – helping to (inaudible) with a mission. Sometimes you had a French or European ship or a British ship who was in difficulty because it was assailed by pirates and the European ships (inaudible) went too far, so we called the Chinese ship to come to the rescue. And the opposite was also true. So I think it’s not only within the Contact Group that we have this good cooperation, but much more importantly for our friendship of the sea, they are really acting as, I think, one united group.
QUESTION: So essentially, you conduct operations together; it’s not only information exchange?
MS. HOPKINS: Oh no, it’s much more than that. Let me explain briefly how it works. There are three organized multilateral counter-piracy missions: the EU’s NAVFOR Atalanta, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, and Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force 151. Then there are a number of independent deployers, including China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea. They operate together – not under single command and control, but under a system of voluntary cooperation and de-confliction. The operational commanders of all of these counter-piracy forces meet quarterly in Bahrain on a voluntary and nonpolitical basis where the operational military commanders discuss their respective plans and de-conflict their operations.
This is a remarkable success. It works very well. And I would add that China and Russia have co-chaired working groups in the shade, as this group is called, operating and working with NATO, with the EU, with [Combined Maritime Forces or] CMF, and with the other national independent deployers. The fact that Russia and NATO are working together very cooperatively on counter-piracy is a great success story. And this, in case you’re not aware of it, is the first out-of-area deployments for China in 400 years, and Japan changed its laws and created for the first time since World War II a counter-piracy based out of its own immediate regional sphere. So it’s – piracy is a great uniter because it’s a common enemy. Everybody hates pirates.
QUESTION: My name is Martin Reznicek with Czech Television. I’m sorry. With the level of attacks and the number of attacks falling now, do you expect the military presence to be scaled down in the foreseeable future?
MR. RIVASSEAU: This is a point which will be discussed. You have to balance two things: the need of economies – and maybe you’re already (inaudible) – and the need to keep the curb, the present curb, down as much as possible. At this stage, I am not announcing any reduction now because what we want first and foremost is to make sure that the levels of activities don’t increase any more. You have not only to look at the figures of number of attacks; you have also to try to look at groups which remain operational or not, and it’s on this basis that you make decisions of reduction or not.
MS. HOPKINS: I agree with Mr. Rivasseau. And interestingly, it is the naval commanders themselves who agitate to keep their ships at sea to protect the shipping in this area. They’re very concerned because they know that the respective governments are trying – looking for economies. Everyone has competing priorities. And the naval commanders themselves tell us that it’s very important that we not get complacent and lazy because piracy will resurge if we do.
MR. RIVASSEAU: And if it’s resurged, then after that it’s like anything in life; it will be – it will require higher level of efforts to re-curb it again.
MS. HOPKINS: It makes more sense to keep the pressure on and solve the problem, sure, so the naval forces don’t have to come back.
QUESTION: Pat Reber from the German press agency Deutsche Presse Agentur. I wanted to ask a little bit more if you could tell us a little bit more about the onshore operations. You referred to that, Mr. Rivasseau, as to something that I believe the European group did.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yes.
QUESTION: And now you have a working group working on that. And is that somehow connected to the economy of Somalia, whatever is left of the Somali economy, in terms of fishing, offshore fishing? Do people still fish offshore? Is that still a viable industry, or is there some reason why the agitators, these main criminals, can continue drafting help from Somali fishermen?
MR. RIVASSEAU: First of all, it’s obviously something which is exceptional. As you know, there has been, as far as I know, one case, maybe half another, but that’s all.
No, the idea is to – everybody hates pirates, as you know, but we know – but also, we know who these pirates are. As men, they are not so inhumane people. They are people who are poor who – there’s a local tradition of – for these Somali fisherman to go far at sea. We know the circumstances, the economic and cultural circumstances, which explain why piracy developed so much in the region.
What we want is not to kill these pirates. What we want is to deter them to continue, to convince them that there’s something better – there are things better to do than that. And (inaudible) the main way of doing that is to prove them that this is not a (inaudible) activity. If you want to prove them that this is not a (inaudible) activity, you really have to do one thing – to make sure that it is not (inaudible). And for a pirate, it’s very easy. He has three or four small ship or a mother ship somewhere and he waits for an opportunity, and he can have some hostages and keep them just onshore.
But if he knows that there is a risk that his ships could be just burned and maybe he’s (inaudible) vulnerable to a rescue operation, then he has to put them inside, it costs him twice or three times more and those ships, he has to transport them. When he transports them, it diminishes – it affects strongly its operational capabilities because he can react much more slowly. He has to have much better intelligence system. All that costs a lot. And at the very end, we are in a much better position to go to (inaudible) other people who provide funds to this activity and tell them there are more (inaudible) activities, such as investing in Wall Street or in the Bank of – in the market in Germany rather than to finance a piracy operation. And that’s how we get, one after the other, some groups deciding that it’s not worth any more to go for piracy operations. It’s a long process. We have to follow it just one by one, each promoters – all the promoters of a group as closely as possible. But once again, it’s an element of a strategy of trying to deter piracy.
QUESTION: Is that the onshore – what would an onshore – when you talk about an onshore operations --
MR. RIVASSEAU: Oh, you can send two or three ships onshore, or let’s say a small box with some people who just burns the small fast vessels who they use for operating when you are 100 percent sure that these vessels are used for piracy operation and a follow-up operation, for example. Let’s take this hypothetical example.
MS. HOPKINS: Yeah. There are actually several parts to your question. You asked a very complicated question and I’d like to kind of separate out a bit. There’s the part that Mr. Rivasseau talks about, which is disrupting the business model and making piracy too risky and too expensive a criminal enterprise so that the investors and the actors will find something else to do. And we’ve seen lots of evidence that they’re finding other things to because we’re making their business model unsupportable. That’s part one. And part of that is the direct onshore actions by destroying the skiffs, destroying the fuel dumps, doing the small tactical things that have a big strategic economic impact on Somalia.
There’s a couple of other issues here though, and one is: What are we, the international community, (inaudible) to help Somalia rebuild its fishing industry? And I use that advisedly. Somalia never had a fishing industry. It has a goat transport business, but Somalia had never been big fish consumers or big fish traders. We tried to help them develop their assets to create a fishing and fishing trade industry to provide alternative forms of employment for people who would otherwise be attracted to the relatively profitable business of piracy.
But that whole economic development and social development strand is part of a much larger strategy for the reconstruction and redevelopment of Somalia, which I have to say the European Union is a very important partner in this with the United States and with the entire international community. Many countries are contributing to this – among others, Germany and Turkey and lots of other folks.
But you didn’t mention the EU’s capacity-building Operation Nestor in the Horn of Africa, which is very important. And perhaps you’d like to talk about that as well because it talks about building the organic capability of the regional folks – the Somalis themselves – to combat piracy and provide employment opportunities.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yeah, indeed, but this is not directly against piracy. Thank you for mentioning that. We have two of operation --
MS. HOPKINS: But it’s important.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Sure. We have two of our military operations running in the region. One is an operation designated to build up – to form – it’s also in cooperation with you, by the way – to form the Somali military so that Somalia could regain capacity of functioning as normal state. This mobilized around 400 military personnel from various European country. It was led by an Irish general, General Aherne. I think it’s changed recently. I have not yet met his successor. Maybe we shall have him here in Washington on the 6th of May where, as every year, we shall organize a big meeting on our common security and policy defense activity in the (inaudible).
And we have also the Operation Nestor that you mentioned, which is a much smaller operation, less than 50 people, which has a more regional approach, and which try to increase governance and to try to answer to some specific needs which may exist, so – and it plays also a role in providing some alternatives to what the guys engaged in (inaudible) activities could do and hopefully do.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MS. HOPKINS: But it goes to what you’re really asking. Our counter-piracy strategy – and I say that advisedly – it’s really the Contact Group’s counter-piracy strategy, which is the product of not just governments, but international organizations and NGOs and industry is a multi-pronged approach. There’s the action against pirates, but there’s also security capacity-building, there is institutional capacity, there’s economic activity, there’s development activity. It has to be a whole-of-government – what is the European phrase? A comprehensive approach. That’s important. It’s important because, otherwise, we’re solving just part of the problem.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Go ahead.
QUESTION: My name is Tatsuya Mizumoto from Jiji Press, Japanese wire service. In the context of cooperation in Somalia among many nations, including Japan, South Korea, and so on, do you have any lesson which you can implement in maritime issue of outside area, like Malacca Strait or South China Sea? Do you have any lesson?
MR. RIVASSEAU: This is precisely what we are going to do this year – to elaborate these lessons.
MS. HOPKINS: We’re going to collect the lessons that we’ve learned from international cooperation in the Contact Group and see how they can be applied to other regions, but I will tell you, already – are you familiar with ReCAAP – The Regional Cooperation Against Armed Robbery and Piracy at Sea in Asia – Southeast Asia? They’re already looking to the Contact Group for lessons learned. I would say just over five years of experience with this that the most important thing is the political will to cooperate. You have to have the political will to cooperate, and then you have to develop the mechanisms for cooperation, the capability to cooperate.
And how you apply that is different everywhere because the regional dynamics are different – the geography, the politics, the government – the dynamics are different. So I would say, yes, there will be lessons, and that’s going to be at least three of them. But there will be lots more, I think. And we really are looking forward to the study the academics and the security professionals who are studying the Contact Group and how it operates, to see how it can be applied elsewhere.
QUESTION: [Oliver Grimm, Die Presse, Austria] What about getting the (inaudible)? You said you see the organizing authority moving into different activities, given that they’re being deterred by your efforts. Could you give us some examples about that?
MS. HOPKINS: Arms smuggling, human trafficking, contraband, drugs. Criminals do criminal things.
QUESTION: And in connection to that question, what have you learned in these four, five years of international cooperation about the way these funds are being laundered through diverse financial centers in the Gulf States – they’re being laundered in places like the (inaudible)?
MS. HOPKINS: I can tell you that one thing we’ve learned --
QUESTION: How do you go after these --
MS. HOPKINS: One thing we’ve learned is it’s very difficult to trace financial flows in the region, partly because there are no formal banking institutions. There’s no formal financial institution in Somalia. Now this is an area where Italy has lent a great deal of expertise, and I’m very pleased that they’re going to continue to focus on this in cooperation with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and other financial experts, because it has to do with developing a capability for anti-money-laundering, anti-corruption, the development of financial intelligence units, et cetera.
But tracking the financial flows in that region is very difficult, partly because of the opacity of the institutions there, and in some cases the nonexistence of formal institutions. So what we’ve learned is that it’s hard. It’s hard to do.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yeah. You have a number of operations which are financed without necessarily financial – few moving. We have been informed and studied systems where somebody says, “Okay, I’ve heard of a ship we could go after,” and then you have four or five people who sit around him and say, “Okay, I put so much on that and that and that,” and the sponsor of your operation writes it on a piece of paper and he put it in his pocket, and that’s all. It’s – there’s a part of oral relationship in that all – there’s no real interactions in such operations, which are not of the same kind, but which we could see in other parts of the world. So we have to adapt our organization, our strategy, our procedures to the specificity of the situation here.
MS. HOPKINS: And I would say that just because it’s difficult does not mean it’s impossible. It’s hard, but we are working on it.
QUESTION: Can you give us an example? I mean, a (inaudible) agreement for example how such an operation would work, like – so a spotter sitting in – a Somali spotter sitting in London or wherever knows about a certain ship going a certain place. He calls his folks in Somalia. How does it work? How do they make money out of that?
MS. HOPKINS: Well, I think it’s – there are several different clans, sub-clans, really, of criminal groups and they operate differently. To avoid putting anybody else’s nationals on report, I’ll tell you how a group that’s based in the United States does it. Somali diaspora from Minneapolis. They have very longstanding clan ties and direct interactions, and people in Somali diaspora are living in Minneapolis, for instance, and our FBI watches this very closely, actually raised money to run operations to capture ships, and there’s quite a sophisticated system – informal but sophisticated – based on who’s going to get paid what percentage of the take once an operation is conducted and ransoms are received. It’s a highly organized, if informal, system. There’s actually a stock market in Minneapolis where investors can buy shares in the returns on hostage cases.
And this is the kind of thing that financial intelligence units and financial crimes units, for instance in the FBI and other national agencies, track. Because it’s international financial crime. So I mean, that’s just one example. So when the ransom money is paid out through the system of Hawala, the informal financial transactions, these investors actually make money on their investment, to the extent that there’s quite a sophisticated stock market operating in the United States. There’s probably also one in London. There’s probably also one in Dubai. Who knows? But this is something that the working group that Italy is chairing looks at very carefully.
MR. RIVASSEAU: And Italy, maybe because it was – probably because it was also a (inaudible) country which has a long experience with Somali, and (inaudible) – because if you remember Italy was a colonial power in Somalia before the independence of African countries. And they know better than others how these things work.
MS. HOPKINS: And I might mention that it’s the ministry of finance in Italy that is lending their expertise to this chairmanship. Most of the other working groups are chaired by ministries of foreign affairs or transport, but in Italy’s case, it’s the ministry of finance with their very considerable expertise that is leading the charge on this particular effort.
QUESTION: Jens Schmitz from the German newspaper Badische Zeitung. I remember that when this topic came up there were reports about why it is so easy to recruit local fishermen, and one of the reasons was allegedly international huge vessels kind of empty the sea of fish there. Can you elaborate on that? Is that true at all?
MS. HOPKINS: (A) it wasn’t true. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It wasn’t true?
MS. HOPKINS: It wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. Why did it --
MS. HOPKINS: That’s a narrative that --
QUESTION: Who put it out there, the narrative?
MR. RIVASSEAU: There is one point in this narrative, at the beginning of this narrative there is one thing, which is that in the past, before the Somali war at the time of president Siad Barre, the Somali state was very [jealous] of its sovereignty about its waters and was prohibiting foreign fisherman to operate in its waters, and used to habilitate local Somali vessels to go and to stop and fine boats, fishing boats, which were illegally fishing in Somali waters. And as Donna said, there is not a very developed fishing industry in Somalia. The Somali waters were full of fishes, which did attract illegal fishing. And – but this – and indeed, at that time, indeed, you had this tradition. And it is said that this tradition has been maybe one of the causes of inspiration for piracy. But we are talking here from events which are now more than 25 years old.
MS. HOPKINS: Mr. Rivasseau is right. I don’t want to defend the charge that there is illegal fishing – defend against. There certainly is illegal fishing going on in the coast of Somalia. That is in no way, shape, or form an excuse for hostage-taking and kidnapping for ransom of innocent merchant seamen. But also, it simply isn’t true that the illegal fishing was denuding the Somali coastline of fish. If there hadn’t been fish there, there wouldn’t have been trawlers there. I mean, just the force of logic. If there are people fishing there, it means there’s fish there, because fishermen go where the fish are.
QUESTION: At some point – well, the trawlers can still leave later, when it’s – so there are still fish there today, is that what you’re saying?
MS. HOPKINS: There are lots of fish there.
QUESTION: So that will be something worth doing instead of being a pirate?
MR. RIVASSEAU: We hope so.
MS. HOPKINS: Yes. And in fact, there are a number of international aid organizations helping the Somalis develop an indigenous fishing industry, because it’s an obvious resource that can be used to alleviate the poverty along the coastal areas of that country. Even if the Somalis don’t eat the fish, they can certainly package and sell them and ship them. So that’s certainly – that’s a big area of development.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ve got one or two more questions. We’ll go there.
QUESTION: Hi, Julia Damianova. I’m also from an Austrian daily newspaper, Kurier. My question is to Donna. Donna, can you tell us a bit more about the Somali diaspora in Minneapolis? How large is it? What is its social composition?
MS. HOPKINS: I’m not an expert on the Somali diaspora. But there are Somali diasporas in many countries, including of the countries around this table. A lot of Somalis have settled in in Minneapolis, Minnesota area, and they’re for the most part a very healthy and vibrant community, and very welcome. They’re very productive folks, they work hard, they’re creative and entrepreneurial. As with many of the diaspora communities, there are small cores of them that are more active than others in their home countries, et cetera. And I would characterize the Somali diaspora there as a very welcome part of the Minnesota fabric.
QUESTION: And this is the largest Somali diaspora in the U.S.?
MS. HOPKINS: I believe it is. And it may be one of the largest in the world, although I think England and Norway and Sweden and quite a number of other countries have large Somali diasporas. As – generally speaking, the displaced Somalis have been extremely productive and contributory to the countries where they’ve resettled. And many of them now, as you’re probably aware, are going back to Somalia to Mogadishu, trying to help rebuild their country. And they’re a major source of revenue coming back in to help Somalia. And I think they’re the future, frankly, of a new rebuilt Somalia. And I wish them well.
QUESTION: My name is Masayoshi Tanaka from Japan, NHK TV. I’d like to ask you the basics. Are you able to provide me the basic figure on how many military ships are operating off the coast on a daily basis? And how many pirate people has been in custody so far?
MR. RIVASSEAU: I don’t have all the figures because they vary a bit.
MS. HOPKINS: They do.
MR. RIVASSEAU: I have the figures for a European operation, which is from – as I said, from four to seven. I understand that the NATO operation is about the same size.
MS. HOPKINS: Yeah. I think in the aggregate, there is about 22 to 30 ships of different nationalities at any given time.
QUESTION: Which is the U.S. and European and --
MS. HOPKINS: The whole world. And China and Russia and India –
MR. RIVASSEAU: And China and India and South Korea and --
QUESTION: -- on a daily basis?
MS. HOPKINS: Yeah.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Military ships?
MR. RIVASSEAU: Military ships. Yes. Yeah.
MS. HOPKINS: Yeah. And there are about right now 1,435 Somali pirates in jail.
QUESTION: 1,000? 1,000?
MS. HOPKINS: About 1,430 Somali pirates – either suspected and being tried or convicted and in prison, in jail, in 21 countries.
QUESTION: Yeah. Twenty-one countries. The biggest country – which one is it?
MS. HOPKINS: India.
MR. RIVASSEAU: India.
QUESTION: And number two?
MR. RIVASSEAU: I think it’s Somalia.
MS. HOPKINS: It could be – I’m not sure of number two and three – South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, United States, Seychelles, Kenya. I mean, there are 21 countries, and the preponderance, I think, are in jail in Seychelles – probably Somalia.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yeah, I think Somalia –
MS. HOPKINS: Kenya. Probably India.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yeah. Yeah. I was visit – I think it’s Somalia was second, Seychelles should be possibly running third. I think there are some in Yemen also.
MS. HOPKINS: There are a few in Yemen.
MR. RIVASSEAU: A few in Yemen. In Europe, there are very few in Europe.
MS. HOPKINS: About 80 in Kenya.
QUESTION: Are pirates mainly (inaudible) or Somali?
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yes, Somali pirates.
MS. HOPKINS: With very few exceptions.
MR. RIVASSEAU: Very few exceptions, yes.
MS. HOPKINS: There’s a few Yemenis --
MR. RIVASSEAU: Yeah, a few Yemenis.
MS. HOPKINS: -- one Iranian. Just --
MR. RIVASSEAU: Usually they are Somali.
QUESTION: But the largest number is in India. I’m sorry.
MS. HOPKINS: India. India has more pirates in custody. I wouldn’t – if you don’t mind, like to just give you a snapshot of the hostages, because I think it’s very important that we remind and that you remind your constituencies, that the international community has not forgotten the hostages. We’re tracking them very carefully. There are, as I said, 49, mostly of Asian descent, and the United Nations is being very helpful in trying to reach out to deliver medical care when it’s possible, to keep track and to help these people to the extent that they can in the delivery of support.
And on the unusual circumstances when one or more are released, the United Nations helps to repatriate these hostages. That’s a very difficult and dangerous operation. And the UN, and especially the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, deserves a lot of credit for doing what they can to reach out to these hostages, many of whom live in horrible conditions and some of whom will not survive their captivity. This is a very important focus, and I know the EU has focused to a great extent on this too.
There is actually a nongovernmental organization called the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Relief Program which is funded by the industry, the maritime industry, that works very hard with the families of those people being held hostage and goes above and beyond the call of duty in providing counseling and support to both the family and to the hostages once they’re released, because very often they require long-term after-care. Their careers and very often their health and their livelihoods have been damaged, and the humanitarian response program helps these people and their family, and they work very closely with the UN.
MODERATOR: I think that’s all that we have time for today. Thank you all for coming.
MR. RIVASSEAU: One last question, maybe?
MODERATOR: Okay. Okay, one last question.
QUESTION: [Jens Schmitz, Badische Zeitung, Germany.] Is it only pirates that are in jail, or were you able to get any of the people who actually finance it?
MS. HOPKINS: We have a couple negotiators.
MR. RIVASSEAU: We have two or three, yes. Two or three.
MS. HOPKINS: We know who they are, and we will get them.
MR. RIVASSEAU: We know who --
MS. HOPKINS: We will eventually get them. They can’t hide.
QUESTION: [Dmitry Kirsanov, ITAR-TASS, Russia.] Can I ask one more last question? If you squeeze the people from piracy into arms smuggling, drug trafficking, people trafficking, is it worth it? How is that a success story, then?
MS. HOPKINS: Well, the merchant seamen of the world will tell you it’s worth it. How do you weigh --
MR. RIVASSEAU: I fully agree with you. And – but not to our purpose. Our purpose is to turn them towards legal activities, because what we try to get – all these activities. We are not favoring that. We are favoring turning to legal activities, and we believe that if we are successful in tracking their financial flows, their financial networks, then you can strike not only piracy activities but also other illegal activities, because after all, it – the money follows the same networks made for piracy of other criminal activities. So we truly believe that we are here working not only for piracy but also for greater good, as we used to say.
And as European Union, but particularly the goal of our (inaudible) and our developments and development and cooperation programs to help establishing a good governance which would prevent precisely that. But we cannot substitute ourselves to a Somali authority into it. We’d have to respect the Somali sovereignty on that. So that’s why we have programs for building or rebuilding a judicial system, legal system, police system, including we finance sometimes jails, even – (laughter) – because all that normal jail which will be not in (inaudible), et cetera, et cetera. All that is needed if we want Somalia to function again as a normal state where illegal activities are normally fought against.
MS. HOPKINS: But it’s a good question.
MODERATOR: Again, thank you all for coming. This event is now concluded.
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