a new secondment of OCLAESP in Reunion

Founded in 2004, the OCLAESP, the Central Office for Combating Damage to the Environment and Public Health, has as its mission the fight against the different types of crime related to the environment (traffic of waste or protected species, pollution, etc. ) or public health (drug trafficking, forged health cards, medical abnormality, etc.). To this end, this inter-ministerial office, attached to the judicial police subdirectorate of the gendarmerie, is organized in two departments: the strategy and analysis department, in charge of unit support, file evaluation, training and legal follow-up, and the investigation department, in charge of judicial investigations that entrusted to the office, in connection with organized criminal networks. Within the latter, four detachments were created in 2020 in Marseille, Cayenne, Bordeaux and Metz, reinforced a year later by three others, in Rennes, Lyon and Saint-Denis de La Réunion. Operational since 1er This detachment will be armed in September 2021 with six gendarmes, who will be accompanied by two police officers in the summer of 2022. Its jurisdiction extends over the entire Indian Ocean zone and thus includes the sectors of La Réunion, Mayotte and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories (TAAF), a vast and heterogeneous area, with multiple challenges and problems.

the board ofhe wastes: a big problem

For the staff of the OCLAESP office in La Réunion, as for all island territories, the waste problem on the island is a major challenge. Since hazardous waste cannot be processed on site (the island does not have adequate facilities), it must be evacuated to mainland France, with appropriate means and permits, to processing sites. This maneuver is subject to very strict and scrupulous regulations, which have been in place for many years. A maneuver that worked well. Only here, in 2020, the pandemic invites itself and the machine freezes. The maritime connections for the disposal of waste are shut down and the storage areas become saturated very quickly, leading to a phenomenon of accumulation of waste (washing machines, car batteries, etc.), both in the transit points and in the details. A domino effect that is causing a sharp increase in illegal dumping, pollution of the soil and groundwater and leading to a new phenomenon: the emergence of traffic aimed at sending waste to other countries in the area, especially to Madagascar and in India.

It is at this point, and in cooperation with the local authorities, that OCLAESP intervenes. Its task is to investigate these phenomena, the people and/or companies behind this human trafficking, put an end to it and have the perpetrators convicted. A mission all the more complex than the issue of pollution and waste management, the gendarmes have to take into account another phenomenon: the increasing urbanization of part of the island. “On the west coast of Réunion, the most touristic coast, with the lagoon and the beaches, we are faced with a problem of galloping and growing urbanization. This implies the management of the processing chain for this inert waste, whose legal facilities have reached their storage capacity limit. De facto, wild dumping in gullies or on private farmland has been observed”indicates Captain Solenn, at the head of the detachment, before proceeding, “The constant increase in population points to existing health problems, especially in the areas of drinking water and wastewater treatment. These are all things that affect the health of the population. †

© OCLAESP – Saint-Denis . Detachment

Particularly lucrative local and international traffic

In addition to these problems, the OCLAESP researchers discovered another important phenomenon when they arrived on the island: the trade in local species and certain crops, such as palm kernels. Cultivated in the center of the island, on the plain that bears his name, the palm kernel is a very popular tree for its buds, its fiber and its oil. Priced as high as $45 a kilo, it is one of the most lucrative crops on the island, and therefore one of the most coveted by traffickers, who enter farms at night. “VSis the gold of Reunion,” says the captain.

Equally lucrative, another trade, this time of animal species, is also in the crosshairs of the agency’s detectives. This is the case, for example, with illegal fishing and trade in bichiques, the “Reunionese caviar”. These little ones, which are extremely consumed in local foods, but whose fishing is prohibited from March to September, are sold for 80 euros per kilo. Something to be jealous of. Other Controlled Species: Sea Turtles. Poached in the turquoise waters of Mayotte for their meat, they sell for between 40 and 60 euros per kilo. More recently, the office detachment has also observed a new phenomenon: the importation of songbirds. Taken from Mauritius, they arrive at speedboat in Réunion, at the same time as the local anesthetic, zamal (the equivalent of cannabis). In terms of public health, the OCLAESP gendarmes also noted drug trafficking, generally derived from its use, and anabolic steroid trafficking to or from countries in the area.

A real network to fight environmental damage and public health

Both nationally and internationally, the Central Bureau for Combating Damage to the Environment and Public Health (OCLAESP).

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Build a networksolid

To be effective in these highly specific investigations, which require a good knowledge of environmental law, public health law, and criminal law, all of the Reunion detachment staff come from investigative units or other metropolitan or overseas detachments of the office. In the field, their mission is to collect, centralize and analyze the information passed on by local actors involved in these issues, and to carry out the most complex investigations. The detachment can also provide support to local gendarmerie or police units.

To do this, it relies on a network of partners, carefully built up over the past seven months. “We try to work in all sectors, in all walks of life, and have done so since our inception. We are also multiplying contacts to publicize our unit and our missions. It’s starting to pay off. We are starting to get feedback through different channels. †

As far as public health is concerned, the privileged links with the ARS (Regional Health Agency) and the DRSM (Regional Directorate of Medical Services) of Réunion have thus enabled the agency’s detachment to control a circulation of fake pass toilets operated by a doctor were set up to dismantle the island. There are also many actors here on the themes of fauna and flora, such as the local biodiversity, in Reunion, Mayotte and in the TAAF, rich in endemic fauna and flora, which many institutions and associations want to protect. Among them the prefectural services of DEAL (Department of the Environment, Planning and Housing), DAAF (Department of Food, Agriculture and Forestry), DMSOI (Department of South Sea Indian Ocean), but also the OFB (French Biodiversity Office), the ONF (National Forestry Office), the Reunion National Park and the various reserves. Entities that are an essential source of information for OCLAESP, who also work with them in the field. This collaboration represents a great added value for the secondment of the office. Mutual aid is essential to address the current and future challenges that threaten the health and biodiversity of these richest areas.

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