Diplomatic Couriers and Some Interesting Facts About Them
Diplomatic couriers carry arguably the most important messages in the world. At the service of government institutions, they carry diplomatic bags and sensitive documents across the globe.
Here are some little known facts about this tiny, yet crucial, aspect of courier services.
1. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic couriers are granted diplomatic immunity, which means that they cannot be arrested or detained by any state while working. They must be allowed freedom to travel by all border guards, security forces and immigration officers.
2. Those who work as diplomatic couriers are expected to travel for 75% of their work time, travelling in cargo planes as well as passenger planes, trains, cars and ships, and can expect $40-60k USD in remuneration per year if working for the USA, with tax free housing allowance and education benefits for any dependents. I’m sure a same day courier would be happy with that package!
3. Diplomatic couriers are among the only people in the world permitted to have multiple diplomatic passports and regular tourist passports, too. They can choose which passport to use depending on which country they are entering. For example, when going to a country with poor diplomatic relations with their own, they might choose to use a regular tourist passport to avoid extra attention and perhaps questioning by authorities.
4. It is a little known fact that pilots of commercial airlines are also permitted to transport diplomatic bags and documents between countries.
5. The UK uses the Corps of Queen’s Messengers to carry secret and important documents around the world. Often retired members of the Army, they travel in plain clothes in business class on tourist airlines. They must not be separated from the case they carry, which has its own diplomatic passport, and it does not go through normal baggage checks or investigations by airport, security or customs staff. The case has its own tamper-proof seal and is sometimes changed to the diplomatic courier’s wrist.
6. The first American diplomatic courier was named Peter Parker. The ship he travelled on was a brig called Dispatch. In 1776, Peter Parker was instructed by the Continental Congress to deliver messages to Bordeaux. The intended recipient was Samuel Delap, the message concerning the acquisition of military supplies from France. The letters were weighted so they would sink if thrown overboard, an action that would have to be taken in case of capture. Sounds a bit more risky than being same day courier!
7. British forces invaded Washington on August 24, 1814 in the ongoing conflict between the British and the U.S.A. at the time. The British burned down the home of the Department of State, as well as the Capitol and the White House. The Department’s library was burned, but Chief Clark John Graham had already arranged the most important documents to be removed and taken by diplomatic courier to a deserted gristmill near the Potomac River. These included the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.
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