By Faisal Darem in Sanaa
The Yemeni Coast Guard Authority is building bridges with fishermen and residents of coastal areas as they play a crucial role in maintaining and strengthening security, authority head Maj. Gen.¬†Ali Ahmed Rasaa¬†told Al-Shorfa.
Yemeni citizens have reported¬†suspicious ships¬†and cases of arms and narcotics smuggling, he said, and the authority has been working to raise awareness about how they can help to prevent crime and increase their own understanding of the regulations governing territorial waters.
Rasaa spoke with Al-Shorfa about the shared responsibility of¬†security¬†and the authority’s latest initiatives.
Al-Shorfa:¬†What services does the authority provide to fishermen?
Ali Ahmed Rasaa:¬†The authority is currently following up on cases at the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Fisheries of Yemeni fishermen who have been detained on the African coast. These fishermen are used to going on fishing trips on the Eritrean, Ethiopian, Sudanese and other nearby coasts, as their fathers and grandfathers did before them. While this was permitted in the past, things have now changed as these countries would like to assert their sovereignty over their territorial waters, which the fishermen did not know until some of them were detained.
So our role is to follow up on their cases with the relevant authorities.
The authority also undertakes rescue operations to save fishermen affected by piracy, and search and rescue operations for those lost at sea.
We also provide rescue services for local residents and those who travel from our mountainous and central areas to spend summer vacation in coastal towns and beaches. For this purpose, we made sure members of the coast guard are always on duty, particularly on the beaches and in tourist areas during the summer season. We have also handed out life vests to many fishermen.
Additionally, we have collaborated with the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Authority and the Ministry of Defence, as represented by the navy and the coastal defence, so we can offer residents integrated services. We have good relations with all these authorities so we can serve the fishermen and local residents of coastal areas in general.
Al-Shorfa:¬†How does the authority make fishermen aware they should not enter the territorial waters of nearby countries?
Rasaa:¬†The authority goes to great lengths to educate people on several levels, through means such as radio stations. We have distributed radios to fishermen so they can stay in touch; radios the authority can also use as educational tools. We have partnerships with Radio Sanaa, Radio al-Hodeida, Radio Aden and Radio al-Mukalla to produce programmes that raise awareness about the dangers fishermen face, including fishing in the territorial waters of nearby countries.
We have also used different methods to raise awareness, such as sending SMS messages over mobile phones and collaborating with local councils on street billboards. Bear in mind most locals residents and fishermen are poor and many are illiterate and this is the reason we have intensified our awareness programmes.
Al-Shorfa:¬†Has your work received positive feedback from fishermen and coastal residents?
Rasaa:¬†Security is a shared responsibility; it is not solely the domain of the security apparatus at the Ministry of Interior and other agencies. Maintaining security is the responsibility of citizens even more so than security forces. Truly, citizens have played an important role, whether in regard to reporting smugglers or anything that raises suspicion or that seems out of place, on land or at sea.
Citizens have significantly helped preserve security and have reported any suspicious incidents. They have helped us detect operations to smuggle weapons and narcotics and notified us of suspicious ships, lost fishermen and cases of shipwreck, as well as ships’ pollution of Yemeni territorial waters.
Al-Shorfa:¬†Does the authority hope to improve its services in strengthening security?
Rasaa:¬†The Authority has made huge advancements and several security achievements in terms of detecting violations and¬†protecting Yemen’s sovereignty¬†over its territorial waters. It has done this by curbing weapons and drugs smuggling and controlling illegal migration.
The authority seeks to strengthen the role of its operational and monitoring centres through the adoption of an operational budget. There are 10 of these along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and the local and international community, in the form of donor countries, will feel a tangible improvement in the role the coast guard plays.
These centres will include integrated infrastructure such as health facilities, administrative buildings and kitchens that will enhance the role of the coast guard in serving citizens and¬†gaining their trust even more, while also strengthening our security performance.