Letters — 24 April 2015
Horrible treatment by Customs at PGIA for Belizean-born

Dear Editor,

Could you please publish this letter for me, to Mr. Emil Grinage, Comptroller of Customs?

Thanks,

Dorothy Middleton

April 21, 2014

Mr. Emil Grinage
Comptroller of Customs

Dear Sir:

Subject: Treatment by Custom Personnel in Belize – Philip Goldson Airport

I visited Belize in August 2014 for eight days and I am appalled and disgusted by the treatment received from the Customs Officer.

I had one suitcase (weighing 48 pounds) and one carry-on bag which contained my personal clothing and toiletries for my trip. My suitcase and carry-on bag were opened, poked, prodded and personal clothing items even taken out and put on the table. To tell the truth I was horrified and could not believe my eyes. I even asked the officer what she was looking for in my bags, and was told “she had the right to search my bags.

Another point to note is that this woman did not wear a glove and imagine her touching and grabbing all the other items before me, and for her to touch my personal clothing items is revolting.

I was so upset I had to wash all my clothing before I could wear them. Just think about all the viruses and/or diseases that can be transferred by touching items from one bag after the other. Where is the training here? As a country that depends so much on tourism, it is shocking the lack of training and professionalism the staff at immigration and customs has.

To date, they are the most hostile from all the places I travelled. In most countries, after they stamp your passport, they tell you welcome to their country. This is very disappointing, as so many “Caucasian” people I know that visited Belize tell me how friendly the people are.

As an American citizen, I have travelled to other Caribbean countries, Mexico and Europe and never experienced this type of treatment as a visitor to their country. But what makes this horrible treatment worse is that I noticed the Custom Officer directing people steered “White” (Caucasian) Americans and/or other “White” nationalities over to their own line, while I as a “Black” American (formerly proud Belizean citizen) was steered to the “Black” line (long lines) with other Belizeans.

I further noted that the “Caucasian” visitors have several large bags and were waved right through their line. From my long line I did not see one “Caucasian” person bag being opened, much less searched, so why was my one suitcase and carry-on searched? If you have certain policies shouldn’t these policies be the same across the board for all visitors and not blatantly discriminating against “blacks”?

As a Belizean-American visitor, I also spent money in San Ignacio on arts, jewelry and restaurants; hotel rooms and restaurants in Placencia and San Pedro Ambergris Caye. I can’t believe the treatment I received from my country of birth, Belize. I must add that this is not the first time I have had terrible treatment from Customs in Belize, but this latest episode is the worst. I can’t in good conscience recommend any of my “Black American” friends to visit Belize, fearing the treatment they will endure.

Sincerely,

Dorothy Middleton
521 Constellation Square SE
Leesburg, VA 20175
[email protected]

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