Letter: Bad customs service at Jakarta airport
I must add to the bad experience of an Indonesian lawmaker in his frustration with the customs service at the Jakarta international airport.
I have been traveling to Indonesia quite regularly and more and more I see the aggressiveness of the customs department in scanning everyone who crosses the airport.
Globally at airports, there are “green channels” and “red channels” and in Jakarta it is also the same. However, in Jakarta, the green and red channels are the same. Green channels mean you have nothing to declare and you pass through and, randomly, a customs officer may ask a passenger to have their luggage scanned.
However, when using the green channel in Jakarta, every passenger has to stand in a queue and then get their bags scanned. Usually an officer will notice something interesting and make you open the bag to satisfy his curiosity.
At any time, hundreds of people queue to exit the customs area. If customs officers in Jakarta want to treat everyone as a potential offender, then let them open five gates and scan every visitor.
Further, if you land at Bandung airport, it is even worse. After passing immigration, a customs officer blocks the way and then quizzes each and every visitor after inspecting passports with questions that have no relevance to customs duties or imported products. Then the baggage arrives with a chalk mark, which, diligently, a person sitting behind the screen of the X-ray machine planted on the conveyor belt to mark for further inspection, much against human dignity, where visitors’ bags are examined without reason and respect.
Even in small airports like Penang, Langkawi, Koh Sumai, the visitor is treated with far more dignity and one simply uses the green channel as appropriate. However, as a visitor in Indonesia, you are a potential offender and your bags will be scanned and verified and then you will be allowed to enter the country.
The risk and threat of someone getting illegal material is the same for each and every country and not unique to Indonesia. If the whole world works on random inspections of baggage, then Indonesia can also live with it. On the one hand, Indonesia claims to be a G-20 country and a rising economy and, on the other, the very basic attitude toward visitors or a potential investor or even those who are top managers is that of indignity.
How would the foreign minister feel, if in reciprocation of this policy, all the other countries posted on their arrival halls of airport that Indonesian passport holders will get their bags scanned as a reciprocal policy of treating its citizens as “red line” cases, though they have nothing to declare marked on the customs form very clearly.
I must add that while the policy of every bag being scanned is questionable, the customs officers have always behaved and worked in a professional way both in Jakarta and Bandung airport.