Georgian logistics company Gzavnili has advised its customers not to use Armenian surnames when ordering parcels.
A message on the company’s website blamed the Azerbaijani customs services for the policy, claiming that a new law in Azerbaijan allowed them to confiscate packages on the border.
‘Dear friends. With great regret I have to inform you that Azerbaijan has issued a law which allows them to confiscate all packages with Armenian last names. The packages received on September 3 and 4th are going under extra screening. Thus, please excuse us for the delay caused by this factor,’ the message said.
‘In the future, please keep in mind this fact and try not to buy anything under [an] Armenian last name, as parcels won’t be sent.’
According to their website, Gzavnili allows customers to send personal parcels from Canada and the US to Georgia, or to shop online throughout the world and have their packages delivered to Georgia.
On Thursday, Facebook user Ekaterina Danelyan accused the company of ethnic discrimination. ‘I am an Armenian! I am a law-abiding citizen of Georgia who pays taxes! I demand protection of my rights, as of a Georgian national!’ Danelyan wrote.
The Georgian Public Defender’s Office told OC Media that they planned to look into the issue.
The company has responded that they had ‘no choice’ but to inform their customers of what was happening, insisting it was out of their control.
‘We were receiving numerous calls with complaints, children were getting ready for school, some had birthdays coming up, and there were other urgent [packages]’, Nato Mgeladze a founder and partner in the company told OC Media. ‘And we failed to deliver products for so many days.’
‘This message was put out to avoid any delays in the future until the issue is clarified.’
‘I know how bad the message sounded, I did my best to choose my words to avoid them being offensive, but however I approached it, it still sounded bad.’
Mgeladze said that the Azerbaijani authorities required that all parcels transiting through Azerbaijan to Georgia include the recipients’ names.
‘After providing them with these documents, the goods are stopped just because there are surnames of Armenian origin attached to them’, she said.
‘We have talked with them, explained to them that these packages are not going to Armenia and that all these people to whom the goods belong are Georgian citizens of an Armenian background.’
‘I don't know what [the Azerbaijani authorities] will do in the future… at this point, these are the arrangements and it is the Azerbaijani Customs Service that is doing it’, she concluded.
Natig Akhundov, a spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee, told local TV station ATV on Monday that from 24 September, new amendments to the law on the tax-free limit for parcels would come into force.
According to the amendments, individuals are now allowed to order goods from abroad not exceeding $300 through a post office, with the total amount for transferring goods through a border not exceeding $800.
No mention was made of Armenian surnames.
The Azerbaijani customs service was not reachable.