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Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

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Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 42
Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

Here’s the story : I was leaving Colombia via the airport of Bogota after half a year of visit in the country. I just passed the immigration control and the hand luggage security control and I was just walking between the shops at the airport before taking my flight that was scheduled to take off in less than 1 hour, when a person in civil clothes approached me and presented himself as a narcotraffic police member. He asked me to follow him and asked me some questions about the places I visited in Colombia, then he filled a form with my passport details and asked me to sign it, he said it was a routine form they had to fill. I signed the paper as I thought it was a simple declaration that I didn’t carry any drugs on me and I just wanted to get free and go to the bathroom before my flight. The next thing was that this police member took me to a special room in which they made me a body organ X-ray in order to find out if I was hiding drugs (swallowed them). Of course I was not happy to get radiation to my body but what could I do? The guy told me that I had no choice and they won’t let me take my flight unless I did the check. After the X-Ray they made me pass again through the hand-luggage check because they said it was the normal procedure after passing via the X-Ray room. I was quite furious after this forced X-ray and I asked them to provide me with a copy of the paper I have signed before. They said it was impossible and then one of them told me: “If you make one more question, I will make sure you don’t take your flight and remember: you are here on Colombian territory”.

I made a second of thinking and I realized that this police had the power to easily make me miss my flight and I just proceeded to my flight.

This episode left me with a bad taste of Colombia. I can understand Colombian fight against drug traffic but I just don’t want to get radiation from an X-Ray.

So that’s it, just be aware, when you visit Colombia you can statistically being robbed, kidnapped or forcibly X-rayed by the police.

Edited: 2:17 am, July 13, 2013
19 replies to this topic
Paris, France
Destination Expert
for Colombia
posts: 824
reviews: 21
1. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

Hi

Sorry to hear you lived this unpleasant experience.

It is always very annoying, even hurtful to be questioned when you know you have done nothing wrong.

I can see from your profile that you are from Israel, and you are mentioning you spent 6 months in Colombia.

Unfortunately, some of your fellow countrymen are notably known to make some illegal trade in Colombia, and Colombian police know that. That's called profiling.

It seems the guys did their job, they tried to make it as smooth as possible, and only came to more directive manners when you started arguing.

X Rays are sure not very good, but think about it, if, by bad luck, you would break a bone one day, you'll receive the same amount of radiation.

I remember your previous post about salsa dancing in Cali, I know you had an overall great time in Colombia. That's bad that it ended with a bitter taste. But I would say that finally, no real harm done, right?

Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 42
2. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

Hello Stephane,

About the profiling, you may be right or not, I’m not sure. I’m not aware that Israelis are smuggling drugs in their body between countries, it is usually south Americans who are caught with that kind of things and anyway I entered Colombia with my French passport.

As for the X-Ray: I am willing to pass an X-Ray if I have a medical problem but not to help international drug traffic. In fact, with conversations I had with Colombians, I noticed that they tend to blame the all world for their drug industry, they say that there are drug dealers in Colombia because of the world demand. I don’t see it like that, you can’t blame the world demand and then grow huge drug fields, Colombians should produce more coffee and less drugs.

I am travelling quite a lot in the world and also in countries famous for their drugs like Burma and I never heard of people being X-rayed. In fact, the way they made me signed the paper at the airport of Bogota was done in a quite tricky way, the person didn’t tell me I was going to pass an X-Ray before signing the paper and I guess that in more developed countries it would be more of a problem to make people pass an X-ray at the airport. Not everything is fine in Colombia, in one of your post you mentioned the “el paseo millonario” a practise in which a taxi driver is kidnapping a drunk tourist and then robs his money and uses his credit card. It seems the police is too permissive with these guys. If Colombia wants more tourists, they should crack on the criminals who are attacking tourists and certainly not X-Ray tourists at the airport.

Did I enjoy Colombia? Yes of course, I will probably return to visit Colombia.

In my last 10 days I stayed in Medellin which is a really great city, it is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and with an efficient metro and cable cars, it has a very dynamic atmosphere, good nightlife and great weather. If only Medellin had the Salsa scene of Cali and a little bit more vegetarian restaurants it would be perfect. I also visited during 10 days Cartagena and I didn’t like, it is too touristic and superficial, too hot and expensive and it has just one vegetarian restaurant opened 1 hour a day.

Sydney, Australia
posts: 1,162
reviews: 88
3. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

It might just be me, but are you more annoyed at the way you feel you were treated as opposed to the xraying itself?

As Stephane said, if you required x ray for medical reasons, you would receive the same amount of radiation.

Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 42
4. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

Overall they didn’t treat me bad, that’s not the problem. I am not happy with the X-Ray thing. Just imagine countries would X-Ray all the passengers at the airports in order to make sure that people are not smuggling drugs, will it pass ?

I am not willing to get radiation if I don’t have a medical problem, seems logic to me.

Sydney, Australia
posts: 1,162
reviews: 88
5. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

I think most people actually would have no issues, regardless of the logic behind it in truth.

Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 42
6. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

Most people are also not vegetarian and I am, I don’t really care about statistics. I’m sure a lot of people will care to get extra radiation, it is prejudicial to health.

Kissimmee, Florida
posts: 1
reviews: 2
7. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

My partner and I just returnd from cartagena colombia..we are interracial...were also the only 2 pulled aside in colombia for this same xrày. No issue as don't do or have drugs on me..but it is profiling, embarassing, and frustrating being treated as a criminal when you are not.

Medellin, Colombia
posts: 24
reviews: 6
8. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

It happens sometimes. I have personally been x-rayed twice. Once in Medellin and leaving Bogota. From what I can tell it is pretty random. Last time I flew internationally out of Medellin, I saw the police escorting people into the same room that I had been x-rayed in. One of the guys came out of that room and rejoined hie friends behind me as we were waiting in the immigration line. I heard him telling his buddies about how he had been x-rayed. It's pretty common and if you cooperate, it's relatively a straightforward process. It isn't fun, but it isn't going to do any permanent damage either.

Just be aware, that if you have just cleared the security checkpoint at the Medellin airport and a police office comes up to you and leads you into to a room just to the left of the checkpoint, you are about to get x-rayed. It doesn't matter where you are from; it happens to Colombians too.

Edited: 3:00 pm, May 30, 2014
Medellin, Colombia
posts: 24
reviews: 6
9. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

It happens sometimes. I have personally been x-rayed twice. Once in Medellin and leaving Bogota. From what I can tell it is pretty random. Last time I flew internationally out of Medellin, I saw the police escorting people into the same room that I had been x-rayed in. One of the guys came out of that room and rejoined his friends behind me as we were waiting in the immigration line. I heard him telling his buddies about how he had been x-rayed. It's pretty common and if you cooperate, it's relatively a straightforward process. It isn't fun, but it isn't going to do any permanent damage either. If you travel around Colombia enough via land, then you get used to getting searched and having officials loot through your stuff.

Just be aware, that if you have just cleared the security checkpoint at the Medellin airport and a police office comes up to you and leads you into a room just to the left of the checkpoint, you are about to get x-rayed. It doesn't matter where you are from; it happens to Colombians too.

Edited: 3:04 pm, May 30, 2014
Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 42
10. Re: Another danger in Colombia : Being forcibly X-Rayed

We should be thankful that the X-Ray scan was invented because otherwise maybe the authorities in Colombia would have permitted themselves to open the belly of passengers in order to check if they conceal drugs.

I still don't take it naturally that passengers are X-rayed and I don’t care if the police is profiling people or doing it randomly.

X-Rays tests are damaging to some degree to the body and they are performed in medicine only in cases of medical necessity, with limited use and only with the consent of the patient. Here we have a case of passengers being pressured (by a menace of not boarding the flight) to do something against their interest.

Edited: 12:01 pm, June 04, 2014
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