British MPs Call for Review of Miraa Ban

A UK parliamentary committee has called for the dropping of a proposal to ban miraa by western nations for fear that sanctions on the herb could drive traders in Europe to join terrorism cells.

 A trader sorts miraa bundles. The UK has called for dropping of a proposed ban. Photo/FILE

A trader sorts miraa bundles. The UK has called for dropping of a proposed ban. Photo/FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Home Affairs Select Committee has said the UK government should instead tighten the licensing of miraa traders rather than ban the use of the commodity.

The legislators are fretful that miraa traders are likely to join terror networks affiliated to al Qaeda to compensate for lost income with the ban of miraa imports into Britain.

The proposed ban sparked uproar in Kenya, especially from politicians in zones where the herb is grown, who threatened court action against the UK to reverse the ban.

The politicians tabled a July 2011 report of the UK Home Office that cleared miraa of any harmful effects associated with narcotics, a position supported by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

“It is wrong to place legal importers in the impossible position of choosing between a life of potential hardship or one of crime,” Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee told UK’s broadcasting firm Sky News.

“It is vital that prohibition in the UK does not result in an increase in recruitment of al-Shabaab abroad,” he said, adding that proper licensing systems would serve as a “middle way” between unregulated trade and an outright ban.

He accused the UK government of planning to criminalise the stimulant despite the herb having been cleared for consumption by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

If the MPs have their way and the ban is averted, Kenyan miraa farmers will breathe a sigh of relief given the fact they export approximately 1,440 tonnes of miraa to the UK annually.

Mr Vaz comments come after he held a meeting with members of the National Assembly Committee who travelled to the UK seeking to get support from the influential committee.

UK imported around 2,560 tonnes of miraa in 2011/2012, meaning Kenya’s share is 56 per cent of a business that earned UK Sh2 billion in taxes, according to Sky News.

Miraa farmers have in recent times found themselves on the wrong side of legislation with the Netherlands becoming the latest country to ban the possession and trade of miraa on January 5 this year.

Netherlands — which was buying between 864 tonnes and 960 tonnes from Kenya annually — was following the lead of several other European countries, the US and Canada who have already which have outlawed trade in the crop.

– Business Daily