By Catarina Demony
LISBON (Reuters) -Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is triggering shifts in the smuggling routes for illegal drugs to Europe, the EU drugs agency warned on Tuesday.
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) director Alexis Goosdeel said the war had already had a “direct impact” on one of the heroin trafficking routes out of Afghanistan that used to pass through Ukraine and other neighbouring nations.
“Drug traffickers have no interest to continue to use this route,” he told an online news conference, adding there were already signs of increased trafficking on the borders between Turkey and Bulgaria and Turkey and Greece.
Goosdeel said the conflict was also forcing smugglers using the Black Sea to opt for other routes as some ports were now out of reach. He said it was likely trafficking would increase through the Greek islands and the southern Mediterranean.
In its annual report, the Lisbon-based EMCDDA also said many people who had suffered “severe psychological stress” during the conflict may become more vulnerable to substance misuse problems, and that health services in European countries, especially those bordering Ukraine, were likely to become more strained as drug users fleeing the conflict required support.
“Continuity of treatment, language services and the provision of accommodation and social welfare support are likely to be key requirements,” it said, adding that even those who were not drug users were at risk.
The agency also said the difficult financial situation in Afghanistan that has been under Taliban control since August could make drug revenues a more important source of income and lead to an increase in heroin trafficking to Europe.
It said that despite a ban on the production, sale and trafficking of illicit drugs, poppy cultivation appeared to continue in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Toby Chopra and Alison Williams)