Flemish weekly Knack published an article on 22 October which explained that Belgium remains the biggest entrance gate for cocaine, in the whole of the European Union. More interesting was the fact that this statement was made about seizures of heroin: “The increase in seizures of heroin in the EU is mainly due to an increase in seizures in the port of Antwerp”. This claims turns out to be mostly true.
Knack used the figures from the EMCDDA, the agency of the European Union that monitors drug traffic. Their reports are openly available on the internet. The report turned out to have a different result than the one in the article of Knack, because the number of seizures had decreased, instead of increased.
The drug figures in the EMCDDA reports were misleading because it showed the opposite of the claim. There were less intercepted seizures, so why would Knack say that the increase in the EU was due to an increase in the Port of Antwerp? It seemed like the claim was already busted. Nevertheless, more research was needed to investigate this claim.
More important figures are the ones that clarify the evolution in the amount of intercepted heroin. The research clearly showed that the number of intercepted kilos had increased enormously. In 1 year time, the amount had almost increased by one hundred times. An increase that is quite remarkable when you see that the number of interceptions has decreased anyway. In the graph, there is a clear increase that could not be explained by the figures in the report.
Two experts provide their expertise and explanation on this claim and ensure that there is a logical end point to complete this claim.
Kathryn Robinson, Head of Sector, Media Relations and Marketing and Communication Unit at ECMDDA points out the importance of context.“It is not unusual to see total quantities seized suddenly increase due to a few large seizures , as occured in Antwerp. Belgium seized more than 4,5 tonnes of heroïn, compared with only 53 kilos in the previous year. This was the main reason for such an important increase in the quantity of heroïn seized in the EU. The quantity of heroïn seized in other countries fluctuated within the normal decade ranges.“
“So yes, the statement is correct. But without context, the claim is misleading. If you would only look at the amount of seizures, you would not be able to tell that the claim is true. By looking at the intercepted quantity in kg’s , things get a lot more clear.”
A couple of seizures with amounts above 100 kilograms made sure that Belgium is the main reason why there is such an increase in the EU. There is even 1 interception of 870 kilograms of heroin, which is one of the largest shipments ever.
Else De Donder, staff member study & research at VAD (the Flemish expertise center for alcohol, illegal drugs, psychoactive medication, gambling and gaming) compares the Belgian and the Spanish context. In Spain, the number of seizures is much higher than in Belgium (almost 10 times more). However, the amount intercepted is always lower than in Belgium, which means that there are (some) larger catches in Belgium. The statement in the press points to the intercepted quantity which is indeed higher in Belgium and due to some extremely large catches in the port of Antwerp. I understand that there is confusion when one reads the statement and puts it next to the numbers. Therefore it is important that there is always a clear explanation when talking about this type of content.
The figures in Belgium are going steadily. Every year more and more drugs are intercepted in the EU, and the port of Antwerp is clearly the main player. In short, if you look at the figures, it is clear that the claim is true. Although the wording could certainly be a bit clearer. One should take into account the amount of kilos in the article when talking about an increase. Otherwise it’s not immediately clear to the reader what kind of increase it’s really about.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Senne Croonen, Seppe Frans and Yorben Geerinckx, APUniversity College, Antwerp, Belgium
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