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The question seems suspicious but no, I'm not planning on smuggling any drugs. I ask because I share a house with two other people, both of whom are drug users. They use cocaine, ecstasy, and weed when they party and I regularly see some trace amounts of drugs on the floor, table etc..

I'm travelling abroad in a few months to Turkey and I worry that my bags, which are in the same room as my housemates, will come back as positive for drugs or those canine dogs will sniff my bag.

Would I get denied entry purely on the basis of a positive drug swab/alert?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 7 '21 at 8:55
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    Note: feel free to change your username if it's related to your real name. You wouldn't want your house raided because of a stack exchange question. Dec 7 '21 at 11:47
31

Don't risk it.

Turkish laws on drugs are quite strict https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey/local-laws-and-customs

Would I get denied entry purely on the basis of a positive drug swab/alert.

That's entirely possible. It's also possible that they throw you in jail as well.

Don't risk it.

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  • 38
    I think you are fearmongering. Even in Turkey a barking dog will not get you in prison (unless they want to throw you in jail for political work). It most likely will lead to a thorough search though, and of course may lead to a denied entry, as can just about anything that rouses suspicions, just like in the U.S. Dec 5 '21 at 23:20
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    I agree with Peter here, when in doubt they will search your whole luggage and eventually not find anything. As long as there is no amount of actual substance, the smell could come from anywhere, maybe you rolled your suitcase through something on the streets or your cab driver had something in the trunk that caused the slight smell, etc. etc.
    – kopaka
    Dec 6 '21 at 13:55
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    The "denied entry" part is bad enough, because it's something you will need to bring up in future visa applications.
    – MSalters
    Dec 6 '21 at 14:49
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    @MSalters but we don’t have reason to expect OP would be denied entry over the swab
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 6 '21 at 16:20
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    When you hear "thorough search", think having your luggage turned inside out, including them cutting open the lining of your bags, and then giving you an invasive body scan. At the end, you'll still probably be interrogated and denied entry. Dec 7 '21 at 14:28
21

What could happen if they catch you with residue? There is no reason to believe that Turkey will arrest a traveller for trace amounts of drugs if they are not actually carrying any.

The UAE is a country that does that, and official travel sites warn us to that effect: UK's Travel advice website. I could find no such warning for Turkey.

I don't know how likely there is to be a discoverable amount of residue on on you. But I imagine you'll just get searched, if they do find anything. Perhaps you'll be denied entry (although I can't find that that sort of thing has ever happened). I very much doubt you'll be throw in jail.

I don't feel the risk is large, but I get that you might enjoy transiting airports more with a certain amount of confidence your items are drug free. Maybe brush or wash your bag? Use some alcohol based surface cleaner. Try and store your bag in a tidy place not next to the drug preparation.

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    Even buy a new bag, keep it in your car and not your house, launder your clothes, etc. You dont want to attract attention and questions, especially if youve done nothing wrong. Dec 6 '21 at 8:03
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    @vikingsteve it's more like: you don't want to attract attention etc, especially if you have done something wrong, If you haven't done anything wrong you don't really care about attention and questions.
    – mcalex
    Dec 7 '21 at 6:46
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    disagree completely. Class A drugs are not regarded well in other countries. Do you really want to be taken aside by the police, interviewed for 2 hours, and miss your connecting flight? Dec 7 '21 at 7:23
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    @mcalex well, you do care, even if you have done nothing wrong. No one wants to go through hour-long questioning and searching, worried family members/travel companions, maybe missing connections or hotel check-ins, and the fear of actually being denied entry. The usual "if you were innocent you would not try to avoid questioning" is just a movie cliché.
    – wimi
    Dec 7 '21 at 9:42
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    @vikingsteve How in the world did you figure that a positive swab will get you put on no fly list in the US. What utter fantasy statement is that? Despite never having ever used drugs (only alcohol, not even coffee 😂) I have tested positive on a drug swab and the typical response is to take a bunch more drug swabs. Now I can totally see some country take you in for some very unpleasant search and questioning if you test positive on those as well, but few people are rich enough that maybe an hour of their time is worth $20 (global average (not median) hourly rate is around $5). Dec 7 '21 at 12:45
11

I don't know the specifics for Turkey, but let's start from the beginning...

First, in most countries, people are not swabbed for drugs at random (and even less systematically). Random swabs for explosives at security (on departure) are common, but not for drugs at customs (on arrival). Sniffer dogs in the baggage claim area are a possibility, but in my experience they are often trained for something completely different rather than drugs (though this probably depends a lot on the country, and possibly the specific airport or the origin of the flight).

So, in general, for you to be swabbed, you need to draw the attention of customs officers. This may be based on scans of your luggage before it is delivered to you, on a determination made by immigration officers during the passport/visa control interview, on your looks or demeanour, in rare cases on intelligence they received, but I would venture that in most places, this affects less than 1% of the arriving passengers.

If they decide to swab you or your belongings, and it comes back positive, now trouble starts. At the very least, you're set for some quality time with customs officers while they scan and search your belongings and yourself, and interview you to know more. How you are "handled" during this time varies from country to country and based on the officers' instincts and experience, taking into account your personal circumstances. But it will nearly certainly take a little while, and probably won't be the best time of your life.

If they don't find anything, then it's again up to them to decide what to do with you. It may range from a "sorry for the inconvenience, welcome to the country, have a nice visit" to an immediate return home if they think that, even though you're not carrying any drugs (or they didn't find any), you're up to no good. Remember that in most countries, they don't have to justify much (if anything), they can just send you back if they want. If they do decide this, you'll spend some more time in isolation until they manage to get you back on a flight.

So the probability you will get in trouble is probably quite low, but if you do, it's going to be a big hassle. The risk you actually end up in jail for just a positive swab is (in my opinion) quite low, even in the most strict countries (though it probably depends where they detect it, and the levels detected).

One important thing: if you are not travelling alone, and anyone travelling with you could be carrying drugs, then the risk for you increases considerably (you'll become guilty by association, and in some countries they'll just lump all of you together). If you have yourself taken any drugs recently, even if you do not carry any, likewise. And remember that "recently" can go back quite a little while for some drugs, depending on what kind of tests they decide to perform.

And of course, make sure you do not become an unwitting mule. If they do find any drugs, they will not care whether you or someone else placed them in your bags. In that case, you will end up in jail, and possibly worse.

2

"It's not mine, those are traces of my roommates' drugs" is generally not a good position to put yourself in.

You're opening a whole can of worms and inviting questions like:

  • So where do you live? (intent to arrest roommates while you're away)
  • You're okay with living with such people? (rude)
  • So you won't mind a full cavity search, right? (unpleasant to say the least...)

They would make every effort possible to pin it on you.

If you can convincingly play dumb and don't get profiled as a suspected addict/dealer/mule then you might be free to travel.

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    "(intent to arrest roommates while you're away)" only in OP's home country. Turkey probably won't enter another country just to arrest OP's roommates; at worst, they'll notify the home country's own law enforcement, and then it'll be up to the host country's own legal system to prosecute according to local law.
    – moonman239
    Dec 7 '21 at 22:10
  • @moonman239 You can get swabbed when leaving your home country.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 8 '21 at 13:28
  • @MonkeyZeus Never heard of a drug check on departure. Getting swabbed on departure is common, but those are checking for explosives residue.
    – Gene
    Dec 8 '21 at 20:14

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