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2024-02-18 18:55:20

Surat Mia’s soul wandering in HSIA

Naem Nizam

Surat Mia’s soul wandering in HSIA

I went to the US for a few days on a personal visit. I was waiting for my flight at Dubai Airport. There I saw some workers who were returning from various counties of the Middle East to Bangladesh. Many of them came forward to have a conversation with me and took photo. I wanted to know whether they were fine. They shook their heads and one of them said, “I came from Bahrain. However, I feel apprehension when return to the country.” I wanted to know what the fear was when everything seemed to be alright there. Then some of them said they suffer from harassment while arriving at and departuring from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA). There, the people from many agencies don’t treat us as human, and its seems their job is to make us suffer. Immigration, customs, ansar, armed police— everyone’s target is the expatriates. They extort various things including hard-earned money from even the immigrant workers without showing any sign of hesitation.” I said, “If these things are true, then why don’t you go for legal actions?” They said, “To whom we’d demand justice? If we go for legal action, then we’re to face harassment instead. Then the problems get bigger and we tolerate the entire bad thing as we fear to raise our voice.”  

I’d like to describe the incident of late expatriate Surat Mia from Sylhet who lived in London. He was beaten black and blue just for protesting against the injustice committed by the customs authority at HSIA. The family of Surat Mia is still deprived of justice. The expatriates were in fear of facing the fate of Surat Mia as they return through airport. Can anyone recall what was happened to Surat Mia? Surat Mia, a expatriate businessman of Newcastle in UK, reached Dhaka through a flight of KLM on May 9, 1996. He had 4,000 pounds with him that time. However, seeing the money in possession of Surat Mia, some evil customs officers lost their senses and demanded bribes from him. Surat protested against it which brought bad luck to him. The customs officers began to beat him with the wooden sticks in their hands in front of other people in security zone of HSIA. Unable to bear the beating, Surat began to cry and urged for sparing him. Even, he wanted to give all of his money just to save himself from the cruelty. Alas, helpless Surat had to die!  

The expatriates raised movement in protest of brutal killing of Surat. However, the family of deceased Surat Mia didn’t get the verdict even after 27 years of the incident. The insatiable soul of Surat seems like wandering in the HSIA. If there was justice in Surat Mia’s death case, the expatriates might not get harassed these days.

Bangladesh is moving forward and will go further. But our institutions are not able to keep up with the times. There is a shortage of trained people. Shahjalal Airport now oversees 42 agencies and harassment is rampant here. I’ve visited the world's biggest airports. There’s no passenger harassment anywhere. Before 9/11, passengers in the developed world had to face no hassles at airports. Now there is nothing beyond tight security. There are mainly three tasks on the return journey of passengers to the airport. Immigration must be completed first. Then they have to face the customs. It's all over after crossing the green channel or the red channel. Then they go directly to the destination by taxi or car. People from different agencies interrupt the process even after the completion of customs formalities in Bangladesh. They harass passengers to the extreme and make their life hell. I don't know why they do that. I think it is a deep conspiracy to embarrass the government and reduce remittances from the expatriates. Please stop this conspiracy! Don't show over-enthusiasm that ruins the government; rather, strengthen civil aviation, immigration and customs at international airports and land ports. If other agencies and institutions are notified, everything will be shattered. After harassment by various agencies, poor people are again in danger while taking a car. Sometimes APBN and Ansar grab their bags for no reason.

Now let's talk about returning to work for expatriates. After finishing all the tasks, an expatriate is in problems while returning to jobs. He has to show documents and passport while entering the airport. Then, he take the boarding card. After immigration abroad, one just has to go through the security check and go to the gate. In front of the gate, the flight attendants let you in after seeing the boarding card. Immigration seal is also not required when exiting USA or Canada. There is no immigration officer. The idea is to go wherever you want. But, in our country, Ansar members have to be faced at the airport. They observe the passengers' passports with a serious face. Then, you have to go to the airlines. They took the passport and gave the boarding card. The ticket must be shown as it’s a digital world. Then, formalities of immigration and finally the security check at the entrance. Sometimes, some people unnecessarily trouble common passengers in the name of paper examination. I don't know why!

Airport security is the responsibility of civil aviation. They can take help from any organization if they feel that urgency. Passengers all over the world leave the customs hall through green and red channels after completing the formalities of immigration. Green means nothing to declare. Red means the goods were carried in as declared by the passenger. If customs are suspicious, they search and scan the bag. But that doesn't happen anywhere in a lot of other countries. The developed world now knows whether passengers have anything illegal or not through CCTV and advanced devices before they cross customs. Customs officers in the United States sometimes roam with dogs. You cannot enter the United States with more than $10,000. Cooked food is also intercepted by customs. They understand the condition of the passengers by observing them. Ordinary passengers are not harassed unnecessarily. The immigration situation in HSIA has improved considerably. Experienced officers are working in this regard. However, the customs situation is dire. A few rope-made lines are made at the customs. Every passenger has to cross the rope line and get all items scanned. Then Ansar and APBN sometimes harassed the Mddiel-east bound passengers before and after boarding the car. Sometimes there are complaints of snatching away everything. There is no answer to the question of why these things happen.

​Still supervision and excesses of different organizations are going on at every points of HSIA. The soul of expatriate Surat Mia, who was killed by customs officials, still cries in HSIA. Surat Mia's family did not get justice for the murder. Customs officials continue to commit crimes because the justice on this incident wasn’t delivered yet. A few days ago, the gold kept in Shahjalal Airport disappeared in the afternoon. No action was taken against anyone. Those who were in-charge of taking care of the matter embezzled this gold together. Who will investigate the matter now! So, my request to the government – Suspend the dacoits of HSIA. Some good officers should be sent to HSIA and harassment of innocent passengers should be stopped. Customs knows who smuggle gold. Still they don't take action. They do not need another agency behind them. The birds of the same feather flock together! Customs harass first. Then the passenger is searched again in the name of another agency on the way out after finishing the customs formalities! Even, the case of snatching away the money and cards is possible in Bangladesh, not in any other civilized country in the world.

Today, Bangladesh is standing tall in the world with prosperity due to the blood and sweat of the poor expatriate workers of the Middle East. Airports have helping desks for them. No one knows whether these desks have any function or not. I’d say when the workers come home, welcome them with garlands of flowers. Inform the countrymen about the work of half a hundred organizations in HSIA. Investigate who is doing what. The original scenario will come out. A country's airport does not need so many organizations. Let them fulfill their responsibilities by their own. Too many cocks spoil the broth! Thrifty in small things and careless in large ones! Gold smuggling has increased in the name of austerity. Again the incident of embezzling the gold is also happening. Drugs are now smuggled through this airport. Sometimes, a lot or two are caught just to make an eye wash. Then the mafias do their work freely. There is mutual connection among the miscreants here. I don't know if the situation will change when the third terminal starts. I want to recall a story in this regard. A cowherd used to sell milk in the house of a king. One day the king's security chief found out that milk was mixed with water. The matter was brought to the attention of the king and he was angry. He called the head of the treasury in distress and told him all the matter. The treasurer said, “Your Majesty, some level of security is needed to get unadulterated milk.” The king said start working with high vizier and do what you think is best. The high vizier and the treasurer together called the milkman. They asked, “How much milk do you give to the king's house every day?” In response, the milkman said 10 maunds. The high vizier asked “how much water is mixed? If you don't tell the truth, you will be hung.” The milkman said, “Sir, not much…only half a maund.” High vizier said, "How dare you! You give water to the king's milk! You should be hung for it. However, I’m pardoning you right now. From tomorrow you will give 1 maund of this milk to my house and 1 maund to the house of head of the treasury.”  Following the order the milkman went home. He told his wife everything. The wife said, “What's the problem, mix two pints of water. We have to live.” The king again got news that the mixing of water did not stop. This time the king appointed some more security guards directly to the milking place and on the way to bring it. However, everything hasn’t become normal. The king saw the fry of Taki fish while drinking milk! Instead of anger, the king was disappointed and called the milkman again. He wanted to know where the problem is after so much security. The milkman said, “I can tell the truth if you don't cut my throat.” The king assured that he’d be spared and asked him to tell the truth. The milkman said everything. He said that now more water has to be added because of the security. And because of mixing more water, the king got fish fry in milk. Hearing everything, the king was stunned.

The situation of HSIA in Bangladesh is like cow's milk in the king's house. There is no shortage of security now. Even then, the recovered gold disappears. Earlier, there was only gold smuggling. Now drugs are added. No one knows where this terrible situation will end. Common passengers are helpless here. There must be a list of airport criminals. Actions can be taken from long-held lists and based on fresh investigations. Now the problem is who will tie the bell around the cat's neck? A fence has been erected to protect the fields. What to do if the fence tries to swallow the field? HSIA’s situation is like a helpless king. Those who come in charge of customs at the airport have powers similar to those of the landlords of the past. Landlords used to lease certain areas by receiving a lot of money. Then they used to appoint guards according to their whims. They did whatever they pleased. The landlords had nothing to do with it. And the British rulers would have been happy to get his fair share, but the common people suffered a lot. In the same way, in HSIA, the suffering of common people has become extreme nowadays.

Writer: Editor, The Bangladesh Pratidin



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