Dutch to ban import, use of narcotic qat leaves

By Tjibbe Hoekstra

AMSTERDAM | Tue Jan 10, 2012

The Dutch government said on Tuesday it will ban qat, the narcotic plant used mostly by Ethiopian and Yemeni migrants, to curb its use and stop people re-exporting it to other European countries.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has become an import hub and clearing house for the green, leafy drug, which has a stimulating effect when chewed.

Last year more than 800 tonnes of qat were imported into the Netherlands, of which 80 percent was transported, mostly by car, to other European countries, including Germany, Denmark and Sweden, where it is banned, according to government estimates.

“Health Minister (Edith) Schippers will soon place qat on list II of the opium law. This will make possession and trade in qat illegal,” said a joint statement from the Dutch interior affairs, security and justice and health ministries.

The plant, grown in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, is addictive and excessive use causes insomnia, stress, depression and apathy among users.

Sweden’s police welcomed the move, saying authorities suspected profits from the qat trade were financing militant groups like al Shabaab in Somalia.

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