I was randomly picked for a paper swab at Bilbao airport. I was asked to come behind a screen with a male security guard, although I am a single female. He asked me to lift up my blouse and proceeded to swab my bare stomach and also swabbed my expensive dress in my suitcase. Is it actually legal to ask me to lift up my blouse, as I find it a bit indecent?

I would also like to know what is on the paper, as I started to itch afterwards.

  • 6
    It is legal. It is just not appropriate however there is no issue about legality, at least not in Spain. Maybe in the Islamic countries it is illegal. – Augustine of Hippo May 14 '18 at 10:36
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    I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine you could politely ask for a female security guard instead – Traveller May 14 '18 at 11:25
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    In Canada you have the right to have a person of your sex perform this sort of procedure, but you will be asked and not automatically offered, as it adds time to the endeavour. – Jim MacKenzie May 14 '18 at 12:48
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    Bilbao is not in Canada. – WGroleau Jun 15 '18 at 20:44
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    @WGroleau the question is posed in general terms, however. – phoog Jun 15 '18 at 20:49

Is it actually legal to ask me to lift up my blouse, as I find it a bit indecent?

Yes, its "legal" because it is not against the law. The security personnel have asked me to remove shoes, belt, lift up my shirt, turn over my pant waist, all in the name of security and all in the public area.

I guess the question in your mind is if it is okay for a male to do that for a female. In many airports, you can ask for a person of the same gender to screen you in private, or have one present while screened. However, as mentioned in the comments this has to be requested and even then it may not be practical as there may not be someone available; which may add to a delay for you.

As for the reaction on your skin, simply apply any topical allergy cream or ointment. It is likely a reaction against the fiberglass strands in the swab. If the rash persists or it becomes itchy, consult a medical professional.


Unfortunately, aena, the Spanish airport authority/operator, provides little guidance on you first question.

However, if you travel to the US, Canada or Australia, you can always ask for a same gender screener and they have to comply.

The most common swabs are Teflon coated fiberglass. See: Sample Traps.

You may have a simply allergy to one of those.


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