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‘Big problem’ with drugs in the army, defence minister says

By George Psyllides

The drug problem in the army is “very big” Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides said on Thursday, widening checks during recruitment and later during the service.

“Despite the fact that our emphasis is on prevention, we are reinforcing measures as regards checks and cracking down on trafficking drugs inside the National Guard,” the minister said. “

“We aspire to be proactive and not reactive, continuously undertaking new actions and measures,” he added.

The minister said checks would be widened during recruitment and later during the service, to include special forces and others who request transfer to certain positions like officers clubs, offices, and so on.

The checks would be carried out with the permission of the conscripts and after a written solemn declaration.

Checks will also cover permanent staff.

A special unit tasked with tackling the problem would be reinforced with additional personnel and co-operate with the police and the drug squad.

Mental health services will also be bolstered to offer soldiers psychological support when necessary.

The ministry will also introduce a new series of programmes to provide conscripts with things to do in their spare time and make their time in the army more useful and productive.

One of these programmes is distance learning, in co-operation with the Open University, which could cut a person’s study time by a semester.

The programme is offered free of charge.

The same principle will apply to professional training programmes, the minister said. It is mainly geared towards youths who have no intention of continuing their academic studies.

A pilot programme was already underway with the help of the sports organisation to teach self-defence and martial arts. The programme will be open to all during the new recruitment.
Gyms are also in the pipeline for large camps, the minister said, but remote posts would be equipped with equipment for soldiers to exercise.

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