Jordanian Customs Exemptions for Disabled People Vehicles Not Applicable
Umm Yazan describes the response of the Exemptions Committee to grant her an exemption from customs fees for her daughter’s vehicle as “disappointing and unexpected.” Her fourteen-year-old daughter Hala suffers from chronic epilepsy; brain polyps that cause an 85% disability rate and an intellectual disability that does not respond to treatment.
Persons with disabilities and their parents in Jordan have been complaining lately as their applications to obtain customs exemption for their vehicles have been declined without clarifying the reasons for the decisions, although their cases are covered under the 2019 regulation on exempting the vehicles of persons with disabilities from customs duties payment. According to the 2015 General Population and Housing Census, the number of persons with disabilities in Jordan is about 737,000 people.
Law (20) of 2017 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees their right to obtain a total exemption for a single mode of transportation dedicated for their use. The exemption covers customs duties, general sales taxes, special taxes, import stamp fees and any other fees. Despite this, the total number of customs exemptions issued until 2021 is approximately 40,000.
Fifty-three-year-old Nuha Abdullah applied for an exemption in 2019, but the Coronavirus pandemic caused a delay in examining her request. Eventually, it was rejected without giving her an explanation of the decision. Nuha suffers from chronic schizoaffective disorder with an 80% physical disability rate and a severe intellectual disability. This diagnosis is included in regulation No. (27) of 2019 and its amendments related to exempting disabled people’s vehicles from customs duties.
His medical reports show that Wajdi Al-Dababi has a congenital deep arterial and venous malformation and severe weakness in the left side of his body caused by a haemorrhagic stroke he sustained in 2018, but that did not help his application to get an exemption. “We have my dad’s car which he uses for his work so he cannot make it available for my trips, and I also need a newish car,” Al-Dababi also complained about the failure of the department to explain their decision specifying the conditions that have not been met, so that the applicant’s files could be rectified.
Lawyer Enas Zayid, a human rights researcher in the field of persons with disabilities, explains that laws are issued along with regulations, but problems arise when new regulations are issued with conditions that invalidate the original legal text. The general rule states, “It is not permissible to have legislation that contradicts higher legislation.” However, some groups that fall under the category of persons with disabilities are sometimes excluded due to organizational reasons.
She believes that a person with a disability has the right to know why his request has been rejected. She adds, “It is a matter of transparency and integrity to ensure that people in charge are not abusing or overriding their authority. A person has the right to know the reason from the department itself in order to be able to appeal the decision before the administrative court within sixty days of the rejection issuance. The lack of clarity in the decision is one of the pretexts a lawyer can use to challenge the decision before the court.”
The following disabilities qualify for exemptions:
◉ Permanent deficiencies and functional impairment, including complete impairment in the lower or upper limbs; or in one of them; or due to the loss of any of them.
◉ Size stature provided that the person applying is not taller than 121 centimetres (for females) and 131 centimetres in the case of males
◉ Blindness or severe visual impairment whereby the person’s visual acuity is (6/60) or worse in each eye independently with the use of therapeutic correction.
◉ Deafness or severe hearing impairment whereby the person’s auditory acuity is below 70 decibels in each ear independently, on each of the audiogram’s frequencies and with the use of hearing aids, including the cochlear device.
◉ Disabilities due to autism and Down syndrome
◉ Moderate or severe neurological, psychological or intellectual disabilities, which render the persons unable to drive vehicles by themselves.
◉ Advanced multiple sclerosis that does not respond to medical treatment and which renders a person unable to drive a vehicle by himself.
Doctors are the decision makers
According to Raafat Al-Zitawi, spokesperson for the Higher Council for Persons with Disabilities, a person is granted exemptions from paying customs duties on a vehicles as a compensation for the lack of public transportation and the high cost of using private transportation like taxis. Al-Zitawi believes that the exemptions are granted to afford disabled people mobility that would help them exercise their rights to education, work and social integration.
The Customs Exemption Committee is usually headed by a senior customs employee appointed by the Director General, and its membership includes a representative of the Disabilities Diagnostic Centre at the health Ministry, and four doctors specialized in types of disabilities listed in the regulation. These physicians, in turn, are appointed by the Minister of Health; the Director General of the Royal Medical Services; and a representative of the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The committee examines the applications and verifies the conditions for granting the exemption. It also confirms the eligibility of the applicants and examines them to approve the diagnosis report. Then, a recommendation of approval, denial or withdrawal of the exemption is filed to the Director General of the Jordan Customs Department who issues the final decision.
The Director of the Irbid Health Directorate Shadi Bani Hani says, “Filing for customs exemptions electronically became possible a year and a half ago, and medical reports can be uploaded in a way that has facilitated the process during the pandemic.”
The medical report is a diagnostic report that determines the type, nature and extent of the disability and is usually issued by one of the hospitals of the Ministry of Health or the Royal Medical Services and is approved by the specialist doctors serving on the Customs Exemption Committee.
The policy of the Customs Exemption Committee in accepting or rejecting applications varies and depends on the patient’s conditions. The percentage of disability is determined per organ deficiency and not the whole body. Moreover, this percentage is not a criterion in itself as the functional performance of the body and the extent of the disruption caused by the disability are taken into account too. Bani Hani explains that all this is determined by the doctors in the Customs Exemption Committee.
Maher Al-Rawashdeh’s son application for exemption was rejected,
The medical committee in Irbid diagnosed him as suffering from an intellectual disability, severe attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder that require a lifelong treatment.
The reporter filed a request to the Jordan Customs Department for clarification, but their reply stated that they cannot offer responses at this time promising to publish a report that responds to the reporter’s enquiries along with other citizens’ enquiries.
The Jordan Customs Department did not set a date for publishing the report. In the meantime, persons with disabilities who applied for exemptions have no choice but to wait. They are hopeful that the report would explain the reasons for the rejections, so they could appeal the decision or re-apply as it is their right to get an exemption as enshrined in the laws.