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28 February 2024

'Body language' gives away smugglers in Dubai

The number of participants has doubled from last year. (File)

By Amal Al Jabry

Can you tell if someone is trying to smuggle illegal drugs in front of you?  Dubai Customs inspectors can, and do.
They catch the smugglers before moving them to Dubai Police for further investigations, but not only by using their latest detectors and scanners.
The team is very mindful about the body language of the people with whom they interact at the Dubai Airport on a daily basis.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, the Dubai Customs team claims they apply this knowledge to help analyse the passengers, including observing their eyes and hands, watching out for signs of deception and nervous twitches.
“Sometimes it’s the passenger’s nature to be nervous because of that we’re not working on just one sign, we’re working on many signs, the destinations, and further investigations that give us the bigger picture. All those signs help determine our suspicions on a passenger,” explained Hassan Ibrahim, Senior Inspection Officer at Dubai Airport
And suspicious signs are a-plenty, based on a passenger’s less than normal behaviour and reactions, as caught not only in person, but also by the eye in the sky.
“We are working together with other sections that include CCTVs and undercover officers, so the passenger sometimes believes he’s safe and no-one’s watching him,” explains Hassan.
He added, “When he picks up his bag, he tries to take a good look at the checkpoints and his nervous behaviour will trigger more interest among the officers, who are looking for more signs.”
In addition, there are a few more similarities spotted among drug smugglers, particularly eye contact.
“Sometimes when they’re going through the inspection gates, they do not make any eye contact with you, they try to use their phone or just walk past without looking at you,” said Hassan.
He continued, “But when they pass you, you might catch one revealing sign from him, like that quick glance from the corner of his eye.”
As the inspectors are watchful of more body language signs, suspects proceed to attract even more attention to themselves.
“Sometimes they’re rushing to go outside and at the same time they’re looking for a family and sneak alongside them,” continued Hassan.
The baggage area is also a hot zone to watch out for.
Huda Mohamed Abdulla, Senior Inspector at Dubai Airport added: “In the baggage area, they pick up their bags and they wait and walk around, they don’t proceed to the checkpoint.”
“So, we do not rush to check them. We check for three or more signs and after that complete our procedure to be 100 per cent sure the passenger is clean and not carrying anything with him,” said Huda.
With the checks, questioning and searches, the team sometimes faces a bit of resistance, where at times they call in the police to be present.
However, most of the time, the passengers cooperate.
“The way we deal with them, the kindness from our side and the way we’re calm with them, it helps them calm down, and encourages them to cooperate with us,” explains Hassan.
He added, “We have cases of drunk passengers, but we’re always dealing with them professionally, and when we’re dealing with any passenger, even if he’s done anything wrong, even if they’re caught with drugs, we’re never rude to them, we treat them with respect, as it’s our job to treat them as human beings.”
Unquestionably, reading body language plays a major role for the Dubai Customs teams in singling out passengers who intend on smuggling illegal drugs into the country.
“There are people who misuse and try to make money by destroying other people, but thankfully we are ready for that,” explains Ahmed Bin Lahej,  Director of Passengers Operation and Dubai Airport.
Click to read: 'Contract killer' introduces himself to Dubai Customs officials