Loopholes in Baggage Rules : Expats harassed

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Publication Date: 26 August, 2016 00:00 00 AM
Media: The Independent
Original Link: Expats harassed
E-paper Link: Expats harassed 
Baggage Rules do not specify how much goods an expatriate can bring with him or can send home. This often leads to differences between customs officials and C&F agents over ambiguities concerning non-tourist in Baggage (Import) Rules-2012. As a result, many take advantage of the obscurity and others are victims of it. The current Baggage Rules SRO No.172/AIN/2012/2400-Customs says, “Baggage means reasonably imported food items, attire, domestics other personal materials by any passenger.” Although a passenger can bring a reasonable quantity of goods into the country, the rule does not specify the authorised weight or amount. Some expatriates return to the country every month, others once in six months, and yet others every two, three, four or five years. Many come after cancelling their visas, while others come back with their families and belongings.
There are expatriates who are unable to come home for a long period, but the rules do not state how they should sent gifts home, if they want to. Many expatriates working in the Middle East send goods home by courier but complications arise at time of the clearing them.
Moreover, the rules are hazy about the amount of goods those coming every month and others returning with their families due to expiring visas can bring. Md Anwarul Ashraf Chowdhury, president of the UAE Cargo Owners’ Association, says: “The current Baggage Rules say a passenger can bring reasonable amounts of goods but do not mention the weight. But customs officers demand huge sums by way of revenue to release the goods. Time is wasted when an expatriate tries to explain to customs officials.
“Meanwhile, another complication arises when the customs imposes huge warehouse charges for goods lying there. So, when expatriates go to release them, the warehouse charges add up to twice or thrice the price of the goods.” Sayed Musleah Uddin, president, Probashi Kallayan Parishad, said, “Around 50 lakh expatriates work in different professions in the Middle East. Most are low-income people, unable to come back to the country regularly. So, to meet of the demand of their families, they send home stuff like milk, clothes, toys etc. But they are being denied the opportunity because of the complications in getting the goods released.”
“We are facing a legal tangle over the baggage rules. So, we are demanding the enactment of new baggage rules helpful to expatriates,” said Sayed Musleah Uddin.
He said when an expatriate comes home, he usually also carries the goods sent by eight to 10 other expatriates. “We cannot turn down their request as we live with them for long time,” he added.
“It would cost over Tk. 11,000 for every 10 kgs to send those goods by courier service. That is quite expensive. Besides, many expatriates with expired visas cannot come or send goods by courier. Their only option is to send their goods with a returning expatriate. It is our demand that a rule, somewhere between Baggage Rules and Courier Rules, is formulated, considering the condition of expatriates,” said Sayed Musleah Uddin.
Many expatriates return with bag and baggage, along with family, cancelling their visas. They bring their household property and furniture, sometimes weighing over 500 to 1,500 kgs, but run into difficulties in clearing them. At the same time, it is alleged that many bring 200 to 1,000 kgs against a single air bill. It is also alleged many bring goods every months, taking advantage of legal loopholes.
Customs sources said 300 kgs of goods were being allowed under the current rules.
When asked, Dr Showkat Ali Saadi, additional commissioner of customs, Chittagong, told The Independent, “Reasonable suggests a sense of measurement. Accordingly, we estimate the amount of goods an expatriate can bring. The word ‘reasonable’ is kept in the law for the sake of flexibility to the expatriate’s advantage. Otherwise, the law also lists the items. After inspection, we can make out the quantity of the goods, whether they are being brought for commercial purposes or whether the stuff is actually for the dear ones of an expatriate.” He said some people are unaware of the law, while others bring goods deliberately in violation of the rules. “So, there should not be any hard and fast rules for the expatriate,” added Showkat Ali Saadi. “There is a little scope of abusing the law. We halt suspected consignments every day,” he said. The tussle between Customs officials and C&F agents reached such proportions that the release of goods at the Chittagong airport had remained suspended from November 2015 to February 2016.
Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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