MS Risk Blog

Migrant Crossings in English Channel

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

In December 2018, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared the migrant crossings in the English Channel to be a ‘major incident’ and appointed a gold commander to deal with the growing crisis.  On 31 December, the Home Office released the official figures on the number of migrants that have attempted to cross the Channel over the past few months. It has been recorded that in 2018, 539 migrants attempted to travel to the UK in small boats, with 434 in the last three months of the year and 42% intercepted by the French authorities.

The rising trend in migrant crossings in the English Channel has been attributed to a range of factors such as the conditions in the camps in France, and police intimidation that have pushed the migrants to attempt the perilous journey by sea. Charities have repeated flagged up the increasing intolerable conditions in the migrant camps in northern France, where the police conduct regular raids in which tents are destroyed, personal belongings disposed and even pepper sprayed used to disperse the population. It has been considered that such experiences fuel migrant desperation and have increased numbers willing to travel to the UK in small boats.  However, it has been noted that migrants that do attempt to reach the UK often have connections or family in the country, are already fluent in English or consider the UK a preferable option than remaining in France.

Furthermore, the uncertain future immigration restrictions that are likely to follow Brexit, have reinforced the sense of urgency as smugglers attempt to seize the opportunity before 29 March 2019. In addition, smugglers are exploiting new routes to the UK as it has become more difficult for migrants to smuggle themselves onto UK-bound vans and lorries or stow away on trains and larger ships used by ferry services. This has been largely due to the increased security measures in ports have been implemented following the dismantling of the ‘jungle’ camps around Calais. However, the availability of these new routes has been dependent on migrants being able to afford the smugglers fees, with others continuing to attempt previous routes.

Help Refugeeshave observed migrants from several countries attempting to cross the Channel. On 29 December, the 12 migrants found in a small boat off the coast of Kent were identified as being from Iran and Syria. The large number of Iranian migrants identified in the English Channel crossings, have been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of Iranian nationals in Northern France. In the camps of Calais and Grande-Synthe there are currently 1,000 and 2,000 migrants. Field Manager Josh Hallam reports that in Grande-Synthe the migrants are mostly Kurdish people from Iraq and Iran and smaller groups from Pakistan and Sudan. While in Calais, mostly Iraqi Kurds, Iranians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Afghans and Sudanese. However, the number of migrants crossing by sea to the UK are a small fraction compared to the Mediterranean crossings that reached a total of 110,833 in 2018.

The 12 migrants found off the coast of Kent in December have led to the arrest of a the 33-year-old Iranian and a 24-year-old British man by the National Crime Agency in Pendleton, Greater Manchester on suspicion of arranging the ‘illegal movement of migrants’ across the English Channel during. While Javid has highlighted that the evidence has shown that there is organised criminal gang activity behind the illegal migration attempts by small boats across the Channel, it has admittedly been known to the British and French authorities for some time. The smugglers have been active in the camps for many years but there has been a need for more collaborative partnership between the British and French authorities in order to tackle the smuggling gangs, rather than the migrants.

Security Advisory: Kenya (15 January 2019) ***UPDATE***

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

Gunmen Storm Kenyan Hotel

UPDATE:  16 January 2019– Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta disclosed on Wednesday that Kenyan security forces have “eliminated” the militants who stormed an upscale hotel compound, killing at least 14 people, adding that more than 700 civilians have been safely evacuated from the dusitD2 complex.  Officials are reporting that eleven Kenyans, an American, and a Briton are amongst the causalities.  While at 23:00 on Tuesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced that all the buildings in the complex had been secured by security forces and that “the situation is under control and the country is safe,” just an hour later gunfire and sporadic explosions were reported in the area.  There was more heavy gunfire heard at about 7:00.

On Tuesday 15 January, at about 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT), gunmen stormed a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in a lethal attack that is being claimed by Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab.  Gunfire and blasts were heard at the compound, which is located in the Westlands district of the capital, and a plume of smoke rose above the compound with several vehicles on fire in the car park.  Eyewitnesses have reported that the complex was stormed by four armed men.  An explosion targeted three vehicles at the entrance of the compound and a Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Device (SVIED) denoted in the foyer of the Dusit D2 Hotel. Officials are reporting that at least one person was killed and a further eight injured, though unconfirmed reports indicate that at least 30 causalities are being reported by local hospitals.   Police are warning that the “terror attack” may still be ongoing as assailants remain in the upscale 14 Riverside Drive complex.  Security operations are ongoing.

The complex is home to the local offices of international companies including BASF, Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical, and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, which is part of the Thai hotel group Dusit Thani. The Australian Embassy is located across the road from the compound.

Kenya has often been targeted by al-Shabaab, with the militant group claiming responsibility for the 2015 attack at Garissa University, which resulted in the deaths of almost 150 people, and the 2013 attack on a shopping centre in Nairobi.  The 80-hour siege at the upscale Westgate shopping centre killed 67 people.  Al-Shabaab has also carried out numerous cross border attacks.

Anyone currently in the Westlands district of Nairobi is advised, if you are able to do so safely, to consider leaving the area.  If you are caught up in the incident, you are advised to turn any mobile phones or other devices to silent and do not put your location on social media.  Remain vigilant and follow the advice of local security authorities if they are present.


China’s Moves in Wake of Huawei Arrest

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

Although lots of politically significant developments could be witnessed in 2018, not many of them have had so far-reaching global implications as the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer (CFO), Meng Wanzhou, in Canada on December 6, at the request of the United States, on charges of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and of committing bank fraud to cover up Huawei’s business dealings there. This seemingly very straightforward law-enforcement action has prompted China to retaliate by allegedly taking Canadians as “revenge hostages” on made-up charges in much the same way as it would likely to be happening in some third-rate dictatorship.

For China, Meng Wanzhou is not just a mere CFO of a company. As the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and chairman, she will inherit the company upon his retirement. Her father Ren Zhengfei, a former Army engineer grew Huawei into the largest private company in China and the No. 2 mobile phone manufacturer in the world, and is a national champion at the forefront of President Xi Jinping’s efforts for China to be self-sufficient in strategic technologies.  At the same time, however, Huawei is a leading spy agency of China’s Communist Party. Chinese law mandates that companies help spy for China. Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law says, “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and keep the secrets of national intelligence work known to the public.”

The company’s role in the Chinese Communist Party is comparable to that of steelmaker Alfred Krupp in Germany before World War II.  According to the New York Post:

“Just as Germany’s leading supplier of armaments basically became an arm of the Nazi machine after war broke out, so is China’s leading hi-tech company an essential element of the party’s […] plan to dominate the world of the future “.

While Huawei claims that it has never engaged in intelligence gathering, a series of evidence indicates otherwise. These security fears have led several countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, to block Huawei from dominating their wireless networks. Not only have they largely kept Huawei out of their own countries, they have convinced other countries like Japan, India and Germany to go along, too.The U.S. has even banned all Huawei devices from its military bases worldwide. According to FBI Director Christopher Wray these devices give the Chinese power to “maliciously modify or steal information” and “conduct undetected espionage”.

Huawei is the leading company in upgrading cellular networks from 4G to 5G technology. The Communist Party knows the power potential 5G holds. Because 5G is 100 times faster than 4G, it is being primed to run many of the world’s connected devices. Whoever dominates 5G will soon dominate the Internet.

Huawei’s rapid rise as a leader in 5G technology has largely come through Communist Party’s help providing it with low-interest loans and blocking out free-market competitors from the Chinese market. In return, the government can ultimately use Huawei’s 5G technology to gain access to unprecedented amounts of intelligence.

Huawei, both literally and in name, serves China’s efforts for world domination. The Chinese characters that spell its name can mean “To Serve China.” Huawei’s importance to China’s Communist Party should not be underestimated. The government can not and will not respond lightly to anyone who threatens its rise to dominance.

Security Advisory:  Burkina Faso Declares State of Emergency

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

On 31 December 2018, the President of Burkina Faso declared a partial state of emergency in 7 of the country’s 13 administrative regions: Hauts-Bassins, Boucle de Mouhoun, Cascades, Nord, Sahel, Est, and Centre-Est.  Specifically, the state of emergency will cover the whole of the regions of Est and Sahel; the western provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle du Mouhoun region; the central-east province of Koulpélogo in the Centre-Est Region; the western province of Kénédougou in the Hauts-Bassins Region; and the northern province of Lorum in the Nord Region. According to Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou, “the president has decided to declare a state of emergency in certain provinces of Burkina Faso.  He has also given instructions for specific security measures across the country.”  Under the state of emergency, security forces will have additional powers to search homes and to restrict freedom of movement.

The state of emergency follows a terrorist attack that occurred on 27 December 2018 in Toéni, Sourou province, in which 10 gendarmes were killed and three were wounded in an ambush in the northwest of the country, near the border with Mali.  According to a security source, the gendarmes had been heading to the village of Loroni after a school had been attacked and textbooks torched by armed assailants. The al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) has since claimed responsibility for the attack. Prior to that, on 22 December, three soldiers were killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside IED between Fada and Kompienbiga.

The spill over of violence from Mali continues to impact the region and there appears to be no end in sight, with neighbouring states increasingly seeing violent activity within their own borders.  Since 2015, Burkina Faso has seen a rise in violent attacks.  While initially, cross border attacks were concentrated in the northern Sahel region of the country, along the border with Mali, attacks have since escalated and in the past several months have increasingly spread further south to the eastern region, along the border with Niger.  Schools, local government officials and security forces have specifically been targeted, while local communities have been threatened. Most attacks have been attributed to jihadist group Ansar al Islam, which emerged near the Malian border in December 2016, and to JNIM, which has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Anyone currently in Burkina Faso is advised to monitor developments to the situation and remain up to date of local regulations, particularly those liked to the current state of emergency. There currently is a high threat of terrorism and kidnapping across Burkina Faso, including the capital Ouagadougou.  Any travellers are strongly advised to remain discreet regarding personal details, particularly information concerning nationality, employment family. Travellers are further advised to avoid public events and places frequented by Westerners and are advised to remain vigilant at all times and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s new security strategy and its impact on the Jalisco New Generation Cartel

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

As Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, seems very optimistic over his new security strategy, set to initiate in January 2019, violence in the country has soared to unprecedented highs. The increase is mostly concentrated around the western states, and, most recently, in Jalisco it has been especially severe. One of the reasons for this hike is The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). Based in Jalisco state, they were founded around 2010 and has since then expanded rapidly. CJNG is believed to be operating in 22 states in Mexico, and the cartel is likely set to continue growing. Although they are challenged by the new government and AMLO’s security plan, it is unlikely that it will have any impact on the cartel in the short to mid-term.

Cartel rivalry and drug-related crime are two key drivers behind the violence in Mexico.

Violence in Mexico has seen an increase in the recent years. Since the previous President Felipe Calderon in 2006 initiated his aggressive campaign against drugs, putting in military force against the cartels, an estimated 80,000-100,000 people have been killed. The power vacuum following the arrest of “El Chapo” in 2016, one of the most notorious drug lords in Mexico, has sparked an increase in the violence. This is very prevalent in the state of Jalisco, with 1,800 homicides in 2018 as of 12 December. Since 2013, the state capital Guadalajara has seen a 240 % increase in homicides. The CJNG, having its base in the state, is assumed to be the perpetrator of many of the incidents.

Although CJNG is not the only, or even the biggest, cartel in Mexico, it is arguably the most aggressive and expansive. Where several other cartels have suffered fragmentation and disintegration and thus weakening, CJNG are utilizing this and expanding its power reach. CJNG has been described by US authorities as one of the worlds “most prolific and violent drug trafficking organizations”. The cartel has, however, suffered some setbacks with several leaders either killed or arrested, and internal disputes have been reported. But they still appear strong, and are continually challenging the Sinaloa cartel, which is considered by many to be the biggest cartel. Although the Sinaloa cartel seems somewhat resilient in the face of the fall of their alleged leader “El Chapo”, they appear to be weakening in general. Further, the CJNG are reportedly exceptionally ruthless. In April 2018, they killed three students and dissolved them in acid. They have ambushed and killed dozens of police officers in Jalisco, and government sources claim that they have highly sophisticated weaponry, as shown on 1 May 2015 when the group used an RPG rocket launcher to shoot down a Mexican military helicopter. All things considered, the CJNG is probable to be one of the biggest threats to Mexico’s security currently and is thus a target for AMLO’s new security strategy.

Mexico’s new President has pledged a new peace and security plan that promises to fight the violence and crime in the country. The eight-action, holistic plan endeavors to eradicate corruption, guarantee jobs, health, education and well-being, promote human rights, promote ethical regeneration of society, reformulate the fight on drugs and start the peace process, endorse recovery and a public security plan. AMLO has described the plan as being 80% directed towards the root cause of the violence, rather than direct confrontations. The actions laid out in the plan is likely to, to some degree, affect the CJNG and other cartels. However, the question is to what extent.

By working to improve social factors such as jobs, health and education, AMLO wants to get to the root causes behind the violence in Mexico. As an example, one planned measure is to create an extensive scholarship programme to stop the 7 million youths who are not currently in education, employment or training from being recruited to cartels. Its projected impact is unclear. A study conducted on the CJNG showed that one way they recruit is through trickery, hiring people for jobs that are ostensibly legal that later revealed to be illegal. A criminal gang, thought to be CJNG, was in 2016 using flyers that under a fake company name advertised job opportunities as “bodyguards” or “security guards”, offering high wages and a chance for advancement. When later the job is exposed to be fake, the person hired is forced to work for the cartel. Fake job ads on Facebook has also been revealed. It appears reasonable to consider that a lack of jobs and education are main drivers behind recruitment to cartels, however, there seem to be no consensus or reliable evidence that supports this notion. AMLO’s social reforms, if successful, is likely to bring more stability and economic growth to the country in the long term, but its impact on the cartels’ ability to recruit in the short to mid-term is questionable.

By ending the widespread corruption, one of AMLO’s main promises, the government and justice apparatus is likely to be much more able to combat the cartels. However, it is highly unlikely that he will succeed entirely. In Mexico, corruption is very deep-rooted and historically, emphasis has been put on political stability and economic growth before fighting corruption. Even though AMLO is politically strong, having won a congressional majority, he will face severe challenge in trying to eradicate corruption, especially on the lower level. However, targeted anti-graft drives on a federal level has a good likelihood of success. CJNG employs the famed “plata o plomo” strategy, silver or lead, to force government officials on the lower level to enable their activities. According to Jalisco’s State Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer, CJNG has corrupted 20% of the municipal police force, and intimated 70% of the police force to not act against them. A captured CJNG member has alleged that half of the Guadalajara police is on their payroll, paying each between 1,000 to 50,000 pesos per month. Putting a stop to the corruption on this municipal and state level would seriously hinder the progress of the CJNG, however, AMLO’s is unlikely to succeed in doing that. Therefore, his pledge to wholly end corruption is probable to be rather toothless against CJNG in the short term.

AMLO aims to create a new, 50,000-man strong national guard, composed of police and military personnel, to fight the cartels. This proposition stands somewhat in contrast with his alleged “soft” approach, fighting poverty and inequality to fight violence. Previous statements, mainly during his campaigning, from AMLO has purveyed a will to dial back the “war on drugs” in favor of other approaches. This seem to be a U-turn of policies. Human rights organisations have criticised the proposed national guard, claiming that it is just a continuation of the existing “war on drugs”-policy from 2006. As the previous 12 years of militarized opposition against the cartels have shown, the cartels seem to be able to survive under that kind of pressure. Notably, CJNG was created and has been able to expand under such circumstances. On the other hand, a removal of the militarized opposition in the troubled areas could give the cartels room to grow, making the dire situation even worse. It is doubtful that this new conception of the previous policy will have a major impact on CJNG’s existence, however, it might be the best choice for AMLO’s government in the short term.

The future of US cooperation in the cartel issue is unclear. Historically, Mexico and the US has had close cooperation against the drug trafficking, and in August 2018 a new cooperation strategy was announced, displaying intentions of continued cooperation amid tensions between the countries. One of the strategies was to target the cartels financial infrastructure, something AMLO’s new head of the Finance Ministry’s financial intelligence unit, Santiago Nieto, enacted early December, filing complaints against suspected CJNG-affiliated businesses and people, to be investigated. Despite an uncertainty regarding the relationship between US President Donald Trump and AMLO, conflicts on the presidential level are not likely to destabilize the cooperation on the operational level. However, if tensions would lead to a subsequent breakdown in communications or cooperation, that is highly likely to have an adverse effect on the operational level cooperation. For CJNG’s part, the involvement of US law enforcement in Mexico’s fight against the cartels spell continued trouble. If the cooperation between the countries deepens, more resources are likely employed against the cartels, possibly resulting in seriously slowing the rampage of the CJNG.

AMLO’s plan might, despite all its flaws, be what Mexico needs in order to mitigate the violence. It has sparked an optimism that could drive changes in the longer term. However, the plan sometimes appears to be disengaged from reality. Violence is soaring, and the rampage of the CJNG is set to continue. As they are by many considered the most notorious and violent cartel, stemming their progress is paramount to the security situation in Mexico. By endeavoring to stop corruption, employ social reforms and continue militarized pressure, AMLO hopes to stop not only CJNG, but to curtail violence in general in the country. Several actions outlined in the plan are likely to have a positive effect on the violence in Mexico, but some parts will probably be very hard to implement. Therefore, the plan has to be altered and adjusted in order to secure some success. It might be better considered the strategy as a statement of intent rather than a roadmap.