The release of a group of Somali pirates from Kenyan prisons has sparked concerns about where they are likely to go next.
Fourteen of the 164 Somali pirates currently serving time in Kenya prisons are to be released and repatriated next month.
They follow 64 others recently sent back to Somalia after completing their terms in Shimo la Tewa maximum security prison.
There are fears, however, that the released pirates might not go back to Somalia but may settle with other Somalis in Kenya instead.
Mombasa-based maritime consultant Mwinyi Jahazi told IHS Maritime that “releasing them with no clear rehabilitation plan raises concern. We are likely to see them going back to sea in the near future. Pirates find it hard to retire because of the debts they accrued.”
Somali pirate gangs in search of new sources of revenue are now providing armed protection for ships illegally fishing Somali waters, Jahazi said.
Related news:India fears the pirates it cannot prosecute
Local fishermen there report that the pirates join ‘private security teams’, often co-ordinated by a ring of pirate leaders and associated businessmen operating in Iran, Kenya, Oman, Puntland, Somaliland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.
These teams then help vessels cast nets and open fire on local fishermen in order to drive away competition.
From 1 February 2006 to 12 October 2013 a total of 227 suspected pirates of Somali origin have been handed over to Kenyan authorities. All were arrested by foreign naval ships operating along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The Kenya justice system is already overburdened. Its backlog of cases stands at 875,000.
In addition, prison facilities are overstretched, with a population of 53,000 in facilities designed to have a capacity of 16,000.