Last updated: 11 February, 2016

UK firm to review security at Egypt’s Sharm airport

A British firm hired to review security at Egypt airports after the October crash of a Russian plane will begin its work at the weekend, the civil aviation minister said Wednesday.

The global consultancy firm Control Risks will begin “assessing security procedures at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport from Sunday,” Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said in a statement.

The A-321 airliner operated by Russia’s Metrojet and bound for Saint Petersburg broke up mid-air over the Sinai, minutes after take-off from the Red Sea tourism hub of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The London-based Control Risks, a specialist in protecting organisations in hostile environments, was hired by Egypt after the crash that killed all 224 people on board.

Moscow has said the tragedy was caused by a “terrorist attack” but Cairo says it has no evidence to back up this analysis.

An Egyptian branch of the jihadist Islamic State group said it had found a way to “compromise security” at the Sharm airport and smuggled a bomb on board that blew up the Russian plane.

The United States and Britain have also criticised security at Egyptian airports and said it was likely the plane was brought down by a bomb.

Egypt’s aviation minister said Control Risks will review procedures used to check passengers and baggages, and devices used by security personnel at the airport.

Kamal said the firm will only “assess” security measures and submit a report to the government for its consideration.

The six-month $700,000 (623,000 euros) contract will see Control Risks reviewing Cairo and Marsa Alam airports also, Kamal added.

Egyptian security teams however will be in charge of implementing security measures at the airport, he said.

Days after the crash, Moscow halted all Russian flights to and from Egypt and Britain also suspended air links with Sharm el-Sheikh.

The October crash has dealt a body blow to Egypt’s tourism industry.

In November and December, the tourism sector lost 2.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($280 million) a month primarily due to the Russian and British flight bans.

Overall tourist arrivals fell sharply in 2015 to about 9.3 million, from 15 million in 2010. Revenues from tourism slumped 15 percent year-on-year to $6.1 billion in 2015.