KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 – Tabung Haji (TH) is confident that all the 67 haj pilgrims who are stranded due to visa problems and their 15 accompanying family members will be able to depart for the Holy Land before the final flight on Aug 26, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom. He said as of this morning, over 23,700 pilgrims had departed for Saudi Arabia on 63 flights.
“The issue of visa problems has been resolved and Malaysian haj pilgrims have departed for the holy land in stages … The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Malaysia has cooperated well with us in resolving problems pertaining to visas,” he said during the Ministers’ Question Time session at the Dewan Rakyat here today.
Jamil Khir was replying to a question from Idris Ahmad (PAS-Bukit Gantang) on the reasons and government’s immediate solution to address such problems due to the delay in visa issuance by Saudi Arabia. He said the delay did not only affect Malaysian pilgrims but also to those from other countries following the implementation of the online visa application by the Saudi government.
“The visa approval process involves three main channels, namely the ‘e-Hajj’ system, Muassasah and Mofa (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) which are fully manned by the Saudi government … It is beyond TH’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, there is an increase in the number of pilgrims from all over the world and they are also using the same system … This has resulted in (technical) glitches for visa processing,” he said.
The minister said to ensure that such a problem could be addressed and would not recur, the Malaysian government would highlight the issue during a meeting with Saudi Arabia after the haj season. “Normally, the Saudi government will invite every country to attend a special meeting with them and we will highlight the issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jamil Khir said on the stranded pilgrims, TH had discussed with officials from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Malaysia, and set up a special task force and operations room for the pilgrims with visa problems. TH has also taken care of the welfare of this group by providing accommodation and food at the TH Complex in Kelana Jaya and nearby hotels, he added. — Bernama