Iraqi suspects who were arrested for drug-related crimes sit on the floor in a cell inside a police station in Basra, Iraq February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
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The southern Iraqi city of Basra is struggling to cope with a growing drug problem that has overcrowded prisons and strained police resources, only months after violent protests over poor municipal services.On a recent day in one police station, Reuters reporters saw about 150 men, their heads shaved, squatting in two small, cramped holding cells.Basra's oil contributes over 90 percent of state revenues.By March, police had picked up 15 kilograms of illegal drugs this year, half of 2018's entire haul.Basra's police department says 97 percent of drug users arrested in 2018 were unemployed, and more than two-thirds were 25 or younger.All the drugs come from abroad, said Col. Ismail al-Maliki, who heads the Basra police narcotics unit.Basra Police Chief Rashid Fleih said in November that 80 percent of drugs entering the city came from Iran. Local health officials pledged to reopen and upgrade a 44-bed rehabilitation center this month but the police say 44 beds is not enough.Asked about the situation, the state-owned Basra Oil Company said it has pledged $5 million for a rehabilitation center.
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