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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 14:20 GMT
Head to Head: Jamaican drug mules
More than 50% of the cocaine available Britain's streets is said to come from Jamaica, while up to 10% of passengers on planes between Jamaica and the UK are said to be drug "mules".

The British High Commission in Jamaica says the problem could be worse still, as it is impossible to know exactly how many people on board a flight are smuggling drugs inside them.

But Trevor Phillips, deputy chair of the Greater London Assembly (GLA), thinks that such estimations could make many innocent Jamaicans look like criminals.

Phil Sinkinson, British deputy high commissioner in Jamaica:

There was a very recent article in the Daily Mail which said that one passenger in 10 will have as many as a hundred packets of cocaine hidden inside them.

It's very difficult to estimate exactly how many passengers on board any flight have got cocaine hidden inside them but that's probably an estimate on the low side.

Each one could be carrying about half a kilo, so if you had 60 people on board the flight there would be 30kg of cocaine going through.

Jamaicans that act as couriers can be offered as much as $5,000 to take 30kg over to the UK.

If you consider they come from areas of pretty desperate poverty - a lot of them single mothers - it is very important for them to be able to get hold of fast bucks to look after the family.

The Jamaican authorities would like to stop them getting on the planes - and indeed with our help they are to an extent - but it's all a question of resources.

If you consider you have a British Airways flight and an Air Jamaica flight going out every day more or less, you need tremendous resources to screen every single passenger.

Trevor Phillips, deputy chair of the GLA:

There is a danger of exaggerating the issue.

People will say, how can this be true and if this is true, why isn't somebody doing something more about it like stopping all flights from Jamaica.

And the second thing that will happen is that perfectly innocent people - Jamaicans who are coming here to visit their families and even more so, holidaymakers and business people - will find that this is going to be used as an excuse to harry them, to hinder them, to hold them up at airports.

And there is a great danger that now what we're going to get is rather than a concentrated united effort to deal with the issue of drugs, we going to get into an argument about whether Jamaicans are more likely to carry drugs than anybody else.

It will become a different sort of argument which I frankly think we don't need at this time.

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