January 11, 2012 , The Dutch government has announced that it will ban the use of the mild narcotic khat. It is a leaf-based drug that, when chewed, releases juices that act as natural stimulants and is popular with the Somali community.
The Netherlands is used as a hub to transport khat imported from the Horn of Africa to other European countries.
There are concerns that the drug can cause psychosis or bring on schizophrenia.
The BBC’s Anna Holligan in the Netherlands says the country has a traditionally liberal approach to soft drugs.
However, a Dutch government report cited noise, litter and the perceived public threat posed by men who chew khat as some of the reasons for outlawing the drug.
‘Lethargic and uncooperative’
“I’m involved in the ban because it appears to cause serious problems, particularly in the Somali community,” Dutch immigration minister Gerd Leers is quoted sayid by Radio Netherlands.
He said that 10% of Somali men in the Netherlands were badly affected by the drug.
“They are lethargic and refuse to co-operate with the government or take responsibility for themselves or their families,” he said.
Very few Dutch nationals use the drug, which is mainly chewed by people from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen.
Our reporter says more than 25,000 Somalis now live in the Netherlands and as the population arrived, the use of khat in the country grew.
At the moment it is legally imported via Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport four times a week. Khat leaves need to be fresh, otherwise they lose their potency.
Last year, khat worth around $18m (£11.6m) was brought into the Netherlands.
The use of the stimulant is banned in the US, Canada and several other European countries.
But it is still available in the UK where it is legally sold in a small number of grocery stores.