The Seychelles government has transferred 17 convicted Somali pirates to prisons in Somaliland because of overcrowding in its prisons, official said Thursday.
Seychelles Minister of Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan said this is the first time pirates have been moved to Somaliland to complete their prison time.
Morgan said the tranfer of the 17 prisoners will lead to more pirate transfers in the future to the autonomous regions in Somalia of Somaliland and Puntland.
Somaliland is a breakaway northern enclave of war-torn Somalia which has a stable, elected government though it is not recognized internationally as an independent state.
According to government statistics Somali pirates make up 20 percent of Seychelles' 500-person prison population in the main Montagne Posee Prison.
More than two decades of lawlessness in Somalia has created an environment that has allowed piracy to thrive off the Somali coast. Seychelles is one of the few African countries prosecuting pirates arrested by international navies patrolling off Somalia's coastline as part of an effort to crack down on the maritime bandits.
"We have been working hard for the past two years to ensure that, while we will do our part in bringing these pirates to justice, we will no longer have to bear the burden of incarceration indefinitely," said Jean-Paul Adam, the minister for foreign affairs.