66 Somali inmates accused of piracy and imprisoned in Somaliland, Puntland and the Seychelles have identified international naval presence as the biggest deterrent against piracy, according to an informal survey carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Oceans Beyond Piracy.
The survey asked the prisoners to identify what their motivations for going to sea were, if they knew anyone that had left piracy, and what their plans were post-prison. The survey also asked their opinion on the most effective deterrent to piracy, and what might stop piracy long-term.
The survey found there is a clear economic basis for piracy, and long-term solutions to piracy may require addressing this.
One prisoner reported going to sea because ”My family is poor, so that’s why I joined the pirates.”
One reason for leaving piracy was that they had enough money to retire. Many prisoners also pointed to illegal fishing as a reason for piracy and suggested that if it persisted then piracy may continue.
Prisoners who knew pirates who quit piracy indicated that family and community pressures were very important consideration for people leaving piracy, and counter-piracy messaging encouraging this may be valuable. Additionally, a prisoner reported ”Prison is the worst place to be in the world,” with many prisoners also specifically citing fear of future prison time as a deterrent.
International naval presence was frequently reported as a concern or a significant contribution to deterring pirates. The same was true for armed guards aboard vessels, although to a lesser degree than international navies. This suggests that a significant draw-down in naval forces may reduce a deterrent factor potentially contributing to the reduction in piracy.
”This survey shows that international navies, family and social disapproval, and the deterrent effects of prison are all elements of suppressing piracy, while economic pressures and illegal fishing all push people towards piracy. This survey shows the need for a coordinated response rather than a one size fits all solution,” Conor Seyle the Director of Research at the One Earth Future Foundation, said.