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Latest update on implementing the khat ban

On 03/07/2013 the Home Secretary announced that the herbal stimulant ‘khat’, predominantly used by East African communities, would become a classified Class C Controlled Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

According to the 2011 Census, the largest proportion of affected communities (i.e Somali, Yemeni, Kenyan, Ethiopian and Eritrean) live in London. The MPS recognised the implications for policing and the potential negative impact on public confidence and associated organisational risks, but also that this offered a unique engagement opportunity with ‘hard to reach’ communities. In accordance with the Khat Action Plans, a multi-agency Strategic Khat Working Group (SKWG) was created to oversee the delivery of the Plans and monitoring protocol. The Group, who has met on 14/01/2014, 04/06/2014 and 13/08/2014, has a membership that is fluid and comprises members that include khat Specific Points of Contacts (SPoCs), representatives from Mayoral Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), National Community Tensions Team (NCTT), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as well as selected Local Authorities (LAs), support services, community organisations and community leaders.

On a corporate level, the media strategy contained in the pre-classification khat Communications Plan included the use of specialist TV channels, which ensured that messaging not only reached all corners of London but also affected communities across the UK. Targeted communications were sent to community leaders and organisations that contained an overview of the enforcement model, community reassurance messaging and signposted support services.

The Community Together Strategic Engagement Team (CTSET) organised a strategic-level East African engagement event which was attended by community and faith leaders, representatives from local authorities, support services and organisations working with affected communities. Feedback from this event was very positive and CTSET is currently progressing work to deliver a Met-wide, borough level Partnership Community Engagement roadshow. On a local level, police worked closely with partners, faith and community leaders to map and visit premises involved in the use, sale and supply of khat, hold community events and meetings as well as distributing locally and Home Office produced leaflets that gave details of enforcement process and signposting local support networks and services.

In addition to the SKWG, CTSET set-up a quarterly multi-agency East African Practitioners Forum (EAPF) and six-monthly East African Community Engagement Meetings (EACEM) with the intention of sharing information between the MPS and Her Majesty’s Government practitioners and establishing regular high-level engagement and channels of communication with representatives of East African Diaspora.

Overall, community sentiment was positive and tension low. Communities appeared to have welcomed the opportunity to engage with the police and partners. Brent was particularly proactive in driving partnership engagement activities and assisting in the delivery of MPS media messaging. During post classification engagement visits, residents living in Haringey expressed an interest in council support for providing recreational activities for ex-khat users.

In Enfield concerns were expressed that future dealing may be driven underground. At Greenwich a partnership contact stated those attempting to import khat may change to bringing it in to the country in ground powder form. Also, whereas previously khat was exported by Kenya it was now mainly coming out of Ethiopia. Community source indicates that the price of khat (where available) has trebled and new importation routes to the UK are being developed. It is being reported that legitimate parcel services and couriers are being used to import khat. Camden reported a move by users from khat towards alcohol. Haringey users are complaining that the prices are expensive now, and some of them have turned to cannabis - this concerns the young people (under 25's).

However, imports have dropped off significantly since the ban assisted by customs completing 100% inspections on inbound Kenyan flights. There have been some seizures of fresh khat being sent by international parcel services. It is anticipated there will be a slight increase in importation and that the fresh khat will possibly be replaced by the dried. This variety can be flown into Eastern Europe and driven into the UK. Air routes are also likely to change and other airlines used.