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Inspection of Diplomats’ baggage and personal effects

Diplomats have special privileges with respect to compliance with national laws that are covered by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and Optional Protocols. Most countries are signatories to this agreement. However, diplomats are not exempt from baggage inspection or searching of any personal effects as cargo.

The convention clearly states the circumstances under which baggage and goods belonging to a diplomat may be searched. The diplomatic bag may not be searched. Article 50 Section 3 states:

It may be inspected only if there is serious reason to believe that it contains articles other than those referred to in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 1 of this Article, or articles the import or export of which is prohibited by the laws and regulations of the receiving State or which are subject to its quarantine laws and regulations. Such inspection shall be carried out in the presence of the consular officer or member of his family concerned.

Therefore, the diplomat must be made aware of the reasons for the search and the process must be dealt with sensitively in the presence of the diplomat.

VIPs are not covered by any international agreements. They are considered guests of the government and therefore may be given specific exemptions by some government ministry, probably foreign affairs.  It is important that the biosecurity office liaise with the authorities to ensure that the privileges of a VIP do NOT include exemptions from compliance with the quarantine laws.

Find out who grants VIP status for visitors and develop an information package that is sent to the VIP before the flight to your country.

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