“I’ve Been in a Cell for 30 Hours”: Alex’s Trip Turns into a Nightmare… Because of a Candy


The story seems improbable, but Alex (not his real name) was stuck in Abu Dhabi for days after a customs check. The reason: a piece of candy that fell to the bottom of his bag, which local authorities had taken for drugs. Belgian condemns case of arbitrary detention.

It’s a trip they’ll remember for a long time. Alex (not his real name) went to Thailand with his partner. “It was wonderful“, he says. Only then did things get difficult. On the way back, the couple had planned a stopover in the United Arab Emirates.”Since it was a 12-hour gap, we thought we’d have a look“, says the key person involved.

But therein lies the problem. “As we were leaving, we were stopped for a random check at customs.“, explains the person who is a police officer in everyday life. So far, nothing unusual, in all airports and customs booths very thorough searches are arranged randomly. Alex soon understands that something is wrong: “The agent searched my belongings very carefully and stopped at a piece of candy that had fallen to the bottom of my bag. He started asking me before I openly told him that I used cannabis.“.

I find myself in a common room and I stay there for 30 hours



After a brief interrogation, the man found the candy in question and “Medicines in the bag“Do a drug test.”If it is negative, they have told me to leave it. Don’t worry, I know he will“, said Alex.

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It could have all ended there, but it escalates. The Belgian assures that no test was conducted in front of him. Customs officers conducted a physical examination, and they mentioned a blood test, which they ultimately did not do. “I was told to go to the police station located at the airport. Three hours later, the police came to take me away. I see that I am in a cell, I understand that it is a common cell, and I will be there for 30 hours.“, Alex recalled.

No eating or drinking

There is panic. When he heard about the prison, Alex “agony” : “I wonder what will happen to me“.





His cell is barricaded. He gives details of the conditions of detention: “The place is very clean but sometimes there are 15 of us. There is a toilet, nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing to sleep. There is light 24 hours a day“.

The only consolation prize was that Alex was able to use another inmate’s hidden phone to alert his partner.He suffered a lot“She was also very concerned. After being informed, she was able to contact the embassy as part of diplomatic assistance.

A total of 3,000 euros was lost

After 30 hours of detention, for no good reason, Alex was released for 600 euros. He apparently paid the amount demanded and the couple soon sought to return to Europe. “We took the first flight. We went to Rome and then came back“, he says. The total cost of the surgery, between the plane tickets, “liberation” and hotel nights: € 3,000.

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Alex will try to recover the 600 euros that was taken from him, but there is not much hope. According to Amnesty International’s campaign co-ordinator Francois Cross, he was right: “It is a state that is very unresponsive to requests from abroad, aid is very little..

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Also, Alex’s accident did not surprise our interlocutor much: “The environment in the UAE is very oppressive. We have many cases of arbitrary detention. (…) We see a country that wants to project a positive image of itself globally, but concretely, does not respect human rights.“.

Contacting the embassy is a proper reflex

We met with FPS State Department who confirmed they are in contact with Alex’s partner. If the person concerned believes that the assistance provided is insufficient, the right thing to do is to approach the embassy. “People facing such a situation can contact the embassy within the framework of consular assistance and it will try to help them in any way possible.“.

So, before leaving, find out about the Belgian embassy responsible for the country you are going to.

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Spokesman Nicholas Fearance Gewart also advises “All Belgians traveling abroad should consult travel advice in advance“On their website. He mentions that for the United Arab Emirates, there is zero tolerance when it comes to drug trafficking and we have to be very vigilant.

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There seems to be no offense here, just bad luck for Alex. Why did you stop him? Why did you decide to let him in for €600? These questions are not answered yet. But the key person involved wants to follow up.






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