Several hundred trucks bound for the Gulf states have been trapped at the border between Syria and Jordan since early August because of a new Saudi law affecting cargo vehicles apparently aimed at stemming the flow of the drug Captagon.
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A flood of videos – some posted online, others sent directly to our team – show hundreds of trucks at a standstill at the Nassib post on the Syrian border with Jordan.
In this video, a truck driver says, “Today, Wednesday, August 9, 2023, makes it ten days that we’ve been waiting at customs at the Nassib border post. More than 1,250 vehicles are currently stopped at the border. Some trucks are carrying non-food products while others have refrigerated compartments full of vegetables and fruits.”
Our team spoke to someone working on the Syrian side of the Nassib border post, who told us that at least 300 trucks were currently at a standstill in the border post’s parking lot as of August 15.
“We don’t know the reason, but Jordan won’t let them enter. All of the trucks transporting products, including food, are still trapped here,” he added.
Jordan is an important transit zone for trucks going from Syria to the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, which most cargo trucks enter from the Al-Haditha border post.
Our team contacted customs officials in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who said that there was no blockade on the trucks – it was a customs issue that had led to the delays. They didn’t explain the nature of the customs issue.
A measure meant to curb Captagon trafficking?
On August 15, our team spoke to a man who owned a number of trucks transporting goods from Syria to the Gulf states. Mazen (not his real name) posted a video showing all the trucks blocked at the Nassib border post.
It’s an unprecedented situation. The checks carried out by the Jordanian authorities are causing serious delays for trucks from both Syria and abroad that want to go to the Gulf.
Many of these trucks end up stuck under the sun for hours, despite the fact that some of them are carrying perishable cargo.
The measure is aimed at facilitating the export of Jordanian products to the Gulf states. None of the truck drivers dare to talk about it because they are afraid that the Jordanian authorities might ban them from even entering the territory.
However, personally, I think that they’ve applied this measure to try and restrict the trafficking of Captagon, because Syrian traffickers hide it in anything you can imagine in order to get it across the border, in tomatoes or other vegetables and in lots of other products. You can see proof in the photos published by customs officials in neighbouring countries.
This situation seems to have resulted in the Saudi Ministry of Transport deciding to adopt new restrictions on cargo vehicles entering the kingdom. These restrictions went into effect on August 1, 2023.
Under the new law, the ministry has banned the circulation of vehicles older than 20 years old.
The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) told us that the new regulations about vehicles’ age applied to all foreign vehicles, not just those from Syria.
In one day alone – August 13, 2023 – more than two million pills were seized in the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
In 2022, 1,100 cargo trucks crossed the border with Jordan.
On May 19, Syria was reintegrated into the Arab League after being excluded for roughly a decade because of its war. In exchange, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to promise to engage in the fight against Captagon, especially along Syria’s borders with Jordan and Iraq.
Syrian drug baron Merhi al-Ramthan, who had close ties to the Assad regime, was killed along with his family in an air strike carried out by Jordan in early May of this year.