Attempt to dispatch illegal haj pilgrims foiled
The Jakarta Post
The plan of 40 people from South Sulawesi and East Kalimantan to depart for the haj was impeded after immigration authorities found they did not have the correct documentation.
Immigration personnel stopped the would-be pilgrims as they were waiting for a flight from Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar, on Monday evening.
“Our personnel at the airport were suspicious of them. Moreover, when we questioned them, they gave different answers. Some of them said they wanted to visit a sacred place in Mecca, while others claimed they would go on the haj with a premium haj service. I directly ordered my staff members to question them further,” immigration office acting head Andi Pallawarukka said on Thursday.
After checking their documents, such as tickets and visas, it turned out that the 40 people had not gone through the proper procedures to go on the haj. “They planned to travel using an umrah [minor haj] visa instead of haj visas. The Saudi Arabian government does not allow umrah pilgrims to visit Mecca because it’s haj season,” said Pallawarukka.
He further said the would-be pilgrims planned to depart from Sultan Hasanuddin to Singapore via Silk Air before flying to Bangladesh, Riyadh and then Mecca.
For their trip, the would-be pilgrims used travel agent Maidah Wisata and paid between Rp 130 million (US$9,730.54) and Rp 150 million per person. Authorities have asked the travel agent to return the fees to the would-be pilgrims. (ebf)
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