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Senegal receives French interior minister, discuss 'burning issue of drug trafficking', others

Antoine Felix Diome, Senegalese Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, French Minister of the Interior   -  
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Senegal's interior minister has received his French counterpart in Dakar where they both discussed bilateral issues on immigration, and student visas. Also discussed was what they called "the burning issue of intense drug trafficking" between the two countries.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Tuesday in Dakar, in the presence of his Senegalese counterpart, that he wanted to cut short the "rumor" of intense drug trafficking between the two countries.

His Senegalese colleague Antoine Félix Abdoulaye Diome spoke of a "really marginal" issue and spoke out against the "clichés" conveyed on the part taken by his compatriots in drug trafficking, especially crack in Paris.

"We note - and I think it is a shared view in the intelligence - that there is not, at least not in very large quantities, drugs that circulate between Senegal and France," Darmanin told reporters after talks with his counterpart during a 24-hour visit to this traditional ally of France.

"We do not see the arrival of traffic constituted between Senegal and France, I would like to cut short this rumor," he said.

"But we need to discuss more about the few people - it's really only a few people - who are involved in trafficking, especially in Paris," he said while asserting that Paris and Dakar already had "excellent cooperation" on the subject.

The trafficking and use of crack cocaine in Paris is a highly publicized issue in France. Mr. Darmanin called in July for crack cocaine, a highly addictive and smokable derivative of cocaine dubbed the "poor man's drug" because of its cost (10 euros per dose), to be eradicated from Paris "within a year.

The involvement of Senegalese has been reported in various media. French politician Eric Zemmour, a candidate for the 2022 presidential election, said in May 2021 that "all crack dealers (were) Senegalese" in Paris.

"There may be Senegalese living in France who are prosecuted for certain offenses as there may be French people living in Senegal prosecuted for offenses of this nature," Diome said.

"This is a really marginal issue compared to our discussions, but even compared to the magnitude of the phenomenon of trafficking that can take place in Senegal or in France. There are often clichés that must be broken," he said.

"The Senegalese who live in France are Senegalese who live with dignity in this country, as the French who live here in Senegal are French who live with dignity," he said.

Mr. Diome estimated that there are 250,000 Senegalese, including those with dual nationality, living permanently in France, and 35,000 French in Senegal.

He mentioned the difficulty for Senegalese to obtain a visa or to renew a residence permit, and the lengthening of delays in recent years. This is a subject that resonates with the public, especially young people. A large proportion of visa applications come from students.

Mr. Darmanin said he understood the grievances. He invoked the delays due to Covid-19 everywhere in the world, as well as the existence of trafficking and visa fraud, which "also exist in part in Senegal as elsewhere.

He promised within a few weeks a "return to normal" visa issuance times in Senegal, with the objective of bringing regular immigration to France back to pre-pandemic levels.

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