Egypt boosts compulsory drug tests after train crash that killed 25

A crowd surveys a damaged train inside Ramsis train station in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 27, 2019, hours after a fiery train collision that killed 25 people. (AP file photo)
Updated 14 March 2019

Egypt boosts compulsory drug tests after train crash that killed 25

  • Probers blamed last month's deadly train collission at Cairo's train station to a drug addicted driver
  • The driver was found to have left his train without turning off its engine

CAIRO: School bus drivers, rail workers and university students in Egypt face more compulsory drug tests in the wake of last month’s deadly train crash at in Cairo.

Nearly 30 school bus drivers are being prosecuted after testing positive for hashish, morphine or Tramadol, a cheap over-the-counter medicine that is popular among low-income earners.

Twenty-five people died in last month’s incident at Ramses station in Cairo, when a runaway train hit platform buffers and its fuel tank exploded in a fireball. The driver was subsequently found to be a drug addict.

Out of 5,000 railway employees tested, many were positive, said Amr Osman, director of the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment. Exact numbers will be revealed later, he said. Now Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity has formed a medical committee to test almost 1,500 school bus drivers in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Sharqeya, Gharbeya and Daqahleya.

Those who test positive will be referred to the Public Prosecution. Offenders will face imprisonment for at least two years and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($574).

Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said his ministry was also looking into drug testing university students. This would put students who were vulnerable or exposed to drugs “back on the rightful path,” he said. 

“In education, we have a crucial role to combat drugs, not just with drug testing but also with raising awareness on the dire consequences of drug addiction.”

According to a 2018 study published by the Health Ministry, 24 percent of more than 10,000 students had experimented with drugs.

In the 2016-17 school year, 150 out of 4,000 school bus drivers were prosecuted for testing positive for drugs.

Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

Updated 13 min 18 sec ago

Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

  • ‘This was tragedy waiting to happen’: International Organization for Migrationspokesman Leonard Doyle
  • IOM demands ‘immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants’

GENEVA: A Sudanese man was shot and killed Thursday as he and other migrants returned to shore by the Libyan Coast Guard tried to resist being sent back to detention, the UN said.
The International Organization for Migration strongly condemned the incident and demanded that Libyan authorities investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
“This was tragedy waiting to happen,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said in a statement.
“The use of live bullets against unarmed vulnerable civilians, men, women and children alike, is unacceptable under any circumstances and raises alarms over the safety of migrants and humanitarian staff,” he added.
The UN agency said its staff had been on site at the Abusitta Disembarkation point in Tripoli when as many as 103 migrants returned to shore resisted being sent back to Libyan detention centers.
When several migrants tried to run away from the guards, “armed men began shooting into the air,” and one migrant was hit by a bullet in the stomach, according to the IOM staff accounts.
“Despite immediately receiving medical aid on the spot by an IOM doctor and then being transferred to a nearby clinic, he died two hours after admission,” the agency said.
The man’s death, it said, stood as “a stark reminder of the grim conditions faced by migrants picked up by the Coast Guard after paying smugglers to take them to Europe.”
The UN and aid groups have warned that rescued migrants returned to Libya face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centers in the war-ravaged country.
According to the UN, some 5,000 migrant women, children and men remain detained in inhumane conditions in Libya — more than 3,000 of them in areas of active conflict.
In June, an airstrike on the Tajoura detention center killed 53 migrants, including six children.
“That facility remains operational to this day, despite persistent calls to end the arbitrary detention of migrants,” IOM said.
“Alternatives to detention must be found,” it said, stressing that the “increasing reports of abuse and human trafficking from detention centers are truly alarming.”
IOM demanded “immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants.”