Getting used as an unwitting drug mule has long been a plot line for numerous Hollywood films. But this dramatic scenario appears more common than we could possibly imagine.
The most recent one to hit the headlines is Australian Cassie Sainsbury, who was arrested for (possibly unknowingly) transporting 5.8kgs of cocaine concealed inside 18 pairs of headphones.
Even more alarming is the fact that a third of Australians serving time in overseas prisons in 2014 to 2015, were apparently incarcerated due to drug-related violations.
One would assume that all it takes is common sense and caution while traveling to avoid getting involved in such cases. But you’d be surprised at how easily you can fall into these situations. That said, here’s how you can stay drug safe while travelling.
1. Do your research and know the local laws
If you’re travelling to different country, be sure to actually familiarise yourself with their drug laws and restrictions. For instance, it’s easy to assume that countries where recreational marijuana use is legal, such as Netherlands’ capital, Amsterdam, will allow foreigners to enjoy the same lax regulations. However, it should be noted that it’s still illegal for tourists to purchase cannabis.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are countries who have stricter and more rigid drug laws. Take for example the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where even illegal drugs detected in your system are already considered possession. This means even if you’re not actually carrying illegal substances, but your blood or urine tests positive for it, you will be subjected to the corresponding penalties.
2. Never carry anything unknown across borders
In most unwitting drug mule narratives, the unsuspecting victim is handed a package that conceals illegal drugs. Take the case of Cassie Sainsbury. According to an interview with Sainsbury’s mother, Cassie accepted a package she believed contained headphones. Turns out, the headphones contained cocaine.
When it comes to transporting unknown items through borders, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Don’t accept trinkets or tokens from strangers, and be wary of random people asking you to carry items for them at the airport.
3. Be careful with prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicine
Different countries have varying rules for illegal drugs, and the same can be said for prescription medication as well. Not all available, and legally obtainable medicine in Australia is considered legal in other countries.
When I doubt, you can always get in touch with the embassy before you travel to secure the necessary documentation or permits needed. It’s also best that you keep your doctor’s prescription ready for inspection during travel.
4. Keep an eye on your belongings
There is a lot of waiting around that happens while travelling. Unfortunately, all that standing, walking, and queuing can be distracting. Taking your eyes off your bags can allow someone slipping illegal substances into your belongings with the intention of retrieving them later.
Considering that this may end you up in jail or worse, it is a very good idea to stay alert.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you should always keep your bags securely locked. Padlocks are typically used, but experts actually suggest using ziplock ties and using it to create a specific pattern or combination that you can keep track of to know if your bags have been tampered with.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Australian Government can do nothing to bail Australians out who find themselves in this predicament. So before you even find yourself in a situation where you have to question your own safety and security while travelling, try to follow these guidelines and avoid it altogether.
Stay safe from (illegal) drugs!