DUBAI // A public-information flyer will soon warn Indian visitors against carrying poppy seeds to the UAE after a 16-year-old was detained last month for carrying half a kilogram of the banned substance into Dubai airport.
The boy, K K, was travelling from the Indian city of Hyderabad with his mother to visit his father, who works in the UAE.
“The mother had packed the poppy seeds in the boy’s bag,” said K Kumar, head of the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), a welfare organisation that helps expatriates in distress.
“They were both travelling together. When they arrived in Dubai, they were stopped and checked while going through immigration. They did not know it was banned,” said Mr Kumar, who had been approached by the family for help.
Also known as khus khus, poppy seeds form a popular spice in routine use in Indian cooking, but the seeds are banned in the UAE and several Arabian Gulf countries.
A UAE Government website advises visitors against carrying anything that has poppy seeds in it.
“Be careful of carrying poppy seeds, which are banned, so avoid accidentally carrying bakery products that might contain such seeds,” says dubai.ae.
“Also banned is qat leaf, betel leaf or nuts, niswar, gutkha, which while admissible in some countries is not permitted in the UAE.”
Carrying the banned substance can result in a four-year jail sentence and deportation for expatriates. Despite several warnings in India and the UAE, Mr Kumar said many people were not aware of the dangers of carrying khus khus.
“It is something that is regularly used in India for cooking, but many do not know it is illegal here,” he said.
Last year, a 45-year-old Indian was sentenced to four years in prison for carrying 102 grams of the seeds. He told the court that he did not know they were banned and had brought them along with spices meant to cook biryani. He was charged with smuggling and possessing the drug, and he will be deported after the completion of his jail sentence.
Mr Kumar hopes the flyers, which will be distributed to Indian associations in the UAE and at Indian airports, will raise more awareness and stop people from carrying the drug.
The flyer, which will be ready in a week, will contain all the helpline numbers of the Indian missions, various services provided by them, as well as cautioning people from carrying the drug or any food items that contain poppy seeds.