DHAKA: Pre-immigration facilities provided by Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrims in Bangladesh have helped reduce waiting times by several hours after their arrival at airports in the Kingdom, several of them said on Wednesday.
The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah initiative, whereby pilgrims can complete immigration at airports in their home country instead of doing it on arrival in the Kingdom.
From this year, Bangladeshi pilgrims are enjoying pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka airport.
“Among the 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims, this year 60,500 of them will have the opportunity to complete the immigration formalities at Dhaka airport,” Bangladeshi Religious Affairs Secretary Anisur Rahman told Arab News.
“From next year, all Bangladeshi pilgrims will enjoy this pre-immigration system at Dhaka airport.”
Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks. Three Saudi organizations are working at Dhaka airport to accomplish these tasks.
At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database.
In addition, at the immigration counter officials take photographs of the pilgrims, Rahman said.
“The pre-immigration system was supposed to be launched from the first Hajj flight on July 4, but due to technical issues we couldn’t do that on the first day. However, things are now running very smoothly,” he added.
Abdul Kayum Bepari, a Bangladeshi pilgrim who completed his Saudi immigration formalities at Dhaka airport, told Arab News: “It’s an amazing experience. All immigration formalities were completed within a minute. When I performed Hajj in 2011, it took more than four hours for me to complete the immigration formalities at the Saudi airport.”
Bangladeshi pilgrim Sadek Ali told Arab News: “Everything is very disciplined. This pre-immigration system has truly eased the hassle of thousands of Bangladeshi pilgrims.”
Pilgrim Bulbuli Begum told Arab News: “My Saudi immigration formalities took only a few seconds to be completed.”
Pre-immigration support for Bangladeshi pilgrims will continue until the last Hajj flight, which is scheduled on Aug. 5.
“We’re trying to ensure maximum support and comfort to the pilgrims,” said a Saudi immigration official at Dhaka airport.
“They don’t even need to worry about luggage. Once the pilgrims land at a Saudi airport, they’ll immediately board hotel-bound buses and will receive their luggage at the hotel.”