Ethiopian Airlines has denied responsibility for the use of its flights to Maputo by drug traffickers and illegal migrants.
Since July, traffickers with cocaine in their baggage have been repeatedly arrested at Maputo International Airport, and all of them had arrived on Ethiopian Airways flights from Addis Ababa.
In January, 133 illegal Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants, apparently on their way to South Africa, were arrested after stepping off an Ethiopian Airlines flight. It was found that many of them had forged entry visas for Mozambique.
The Mozambican News Agency (AIM) quotes yesterday’s interview of the Independent newsheet “Mediafax,’’ with the Maputo Deputy Manager of Ethiopian Airlines, Mario dos Santos who denied that the company could be blamed for these events.
He said the company was worried about the use of its flights for drug trafficking but stressed that passengers detected with these substances did not come from Ethiopia.
At Addis Ababa airport they were in transit, and the baggage of transit passengers is not scanned again. “There should have been more control where they came from”, said dos Santos. The recent traffickers began their journey in India, and changed planes at Addis Ababa.
“Our job is to transport passengers and cargo”, said dos Santos. “It is the airport authorities who should control illegal substances, and the immigration authorities control visas. If there is a forged passport or forged visa, it’s because somebody issued that document, and we are not the ones who should detect it”.
Dos Santos said Ethiopian Airlines is pleased at the demand for its flights to and from Maputo. It currently operates five flights a week. “We provide the opportunity for connections with over 160 countries”, he said. “Our flights from Addis Ababa to Maputo are all full, and from Maputo to Addis Ababa the average occupancy rate is around 70 per cent, but in recent months the flights from Maputo to Addis Ababa have also been full”.
“This encourages us, despite the really bad image given by these cases of drug traffickers”, he added.
There has been occasional speculation by police officers that illegal activities of some passengers might lead the Mozambican government to rethink the agreement that allows Ethiopian Airlines to fly to Maputo.
Dos Santos dismissed this and regarded the agreement between the Mozambican and Ethiopian governments as very solid, and that there was no risk that it would be canceled.Dos Santos added that work was under way between the two governments, the airport authorities and the airlines to ensure that security matters were observed with necessary rigour”.