Humanitarian transport denied by Belarus

Almost three months after the departure of our relief transport to Kyrgyzstan, we finally have positive news. The goods have been released by Belarus and may be returned to the Netherlands. We never imagined in June that this would be positive news.

One of the culprits, a bag of pasta

What happened?
Until Lithuania, everything was running smoothly. The problems began when crossing the border into Belarus. Usually, this is a formality, but Belarusian customs unpacked, counted and sorted all our pallets. They took two weeks to do so. The main conclusion was that the transport was not allowed to cross the border because some food items, such as pasta and canned fish, had been found. Don’t ask us how they got there, but in our opinion, Customs was mainly looking for additional revenue for themselves. Because for the entire search procedure, we were unfortunately issued a fine of €2200.

We contacted the Dutch embassy in Belarus several times. They contacted the customs office in Grodno twice. Because the procedure was already underway, Customs could not adjust anything. Before we made the payment of €2200, we asked for a commitment of free passage. This was possible after the removal of some products. Belarusian customs said they did not remove products themselves. This had to be done by our transporter in Lithuania. Meanwhile, we had to prepare a new invoice that included food items.

The transporter from Lithuania then returned everything to their customs terminal in Lithuania (10 km from the Belarusian border). They had a modified transit document because the goods were now technically en route from Belarus to Kyrgyzstan. For the EU, our transport now had transit status. The next problem was that our goods were actually not allowed to be stored in this customs terminal because there were food items among them. Once again, unloading was delayed.

In the end, the goods were allowed to be stored in the customs terminal anyway

When we finally received permission from the EU to store the goods in Lithuania, a new problem arose. Surely the carrier did not want to take responsibility for removing some products. Moreover, they did not have the manpower to unpack 22 pallets. Peter suggested travelling to Lithuania himself to remove the products in question. This also proved impossible due to corona quarantine measures for Dutch nationals in Lithuania. In addition, we did not get permission from the Lithuanian government to enter the customs terminal.

Meanwhile, we had asked dozens of people for help. Both in the Netherlands, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately, we became much wiser from that. We knew what our rights and duties were. The contact went so far that Kyrgyz customs was willing to arrange a TIR transport from Lithuania to Kyrgyzstan. This meant they could arrange for a truck to be sealed. And that there are no customs formalities in intermediate countries.

The condition was that our current transportation did not have transit status. However, ending this transit status was not going to work. In addition, we had to pay extra fees every week to store our goods in the customs terminal. In the meantime, this was getting pretty expensive. Therefore, in consultation with a Dutch freight forwarder, we decided to bring the items back to the Netherlands.

Reloading everything for transport anyway

Once the goods are reported for return, the transit status is lifted. Kyrgyz customs still sent a TIR truck to pick up our belongings. We were able to use the entire truck for this purpose. That means that even 11 additional pallets can be carried.

Safely the goods were returned to the Netherlands. Within a week, we want to resend the items. This time without border controls and with guaranteed arrival in Kyrgyzstan. 

First, we started filling the 11 extra pallets with capital equipment that we could use to support local entrepreneurs. We have already received an ice cream machine for producing fresh ice creams. All machinery, tools and raw materials are welcome. If you have capital goods you would like to donate, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at

Additional donations are always welcome to help cover the substantial additional costs. The customs formalities, storage, import duties and extra trucks are going to cost us at least €12 850. To donate, please see the link below through our Crowd Funding page:

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