Saudi Arabia to change immigration process for Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims

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Bangladeshi Muslim pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport on July 14,2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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A woman photographs Bangladeshi Muslim pilgrims as they arrive at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia on July 14,2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP)
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Bangladeshi Muslim pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia on July 14,2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019

Saudi Arabia to change immigration process for Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims

  • No more waiting in aircraft upon landing
  • Bangladeshis must complete 10-finger biometric registration

DHAKA: Bangladeshi pilgrims performing Hajj will now be able to complete immigration procedures before arriving in Saudi Arabia, rather than wait in the aircraft for hours upon landing in the Kingdom. The change comes following high-level exchanges between the two governments on making things easier for the 127,000 Hajj pilgrims from Bangladesh.
Anisur Rahman, from the Religious Affairs Ministry in Dhaka, said pilgrims would now be able to complete immigration formalities at Bangladesh’s main international airport.
The country’s pilgrims were previously required to wait in the aircraft after landing in Saudi Arabia to complete immigration procedures, sometimes waiting for up to six hours.
While half of the Hajj pilgrims will travel with the national carrier, Bangladesh Biman, the rest will be flown to the Kingdom through special flights arranged by Saudi Airlines.
“Now Bangladeshi pilgrims will be able to enter Saudi Arabia through a jet-bridge after landing at the airport without any formalities,” Rahman told Arab News on Tuesday.
Bangladesh has had discussions with Saudi government representatives during the past two years about immigration procedures for pilgrims, and Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah went to Saudi Arabia to take the matter forward.
Saudi Arabia assured Bangladesh it would accept its request to help pilgrims, Rahman said.
“To finalize the last-minute formalities a high-profile 14-member Saudi delegation, led by the chief of the passport and immigration department, is scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh on Wednesday at 1 a.m. Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah minister and other relevant secretaries will also join the team,” Rahman added.
“We will have the official meeting Wednesday afternoon and the team will visit all the facilities at Dhaka airport and the Hajj camp on Thursday. Everything will be finalized after this visit.”
The Saudi delegation is scheduled to leave Bangladesh on Saturday. Bangladeshis welcomed the easier landing process.
“I performed Hajj in 2015 and it took four hours for me to complete immigration formalities,” 61-year-old Abdul Malek told Arab News. “If we can do the immigration and customs tasks here at Dhaka, it would be a great relief for the Bangladeshi pilgrims.”
Another Bangladeshi pilgrim, 53-year-old Amena Begum, intends to perform Hajj this year and was grateful for the change.
“I have heard about the immigration hassles from others who have performed Hajj before,” she told Arab News. “But I feel lucky to hear the news of having immigration formalities in Dhaka from this year.”
Bangladesh will increase the number of immigration staff at the airport to 60. It is expected that Saudi Arabia will also send the same number of immigration officials to Dhaka during the month-long hajj flight operation.
“The Saudi immigration team will stay in Dhaka for the Hajj flights and we will provide all types of assistance to them,” Rahman said.
But Bangladeshi pilgrims will also have to complete a 10-finger biometric registration process in line with Saudi immigration rules.
Dhaka has set the minimum cost for pilgrims at $4,145 for this year. The maximum cost is fixed at $5,045. The registration process began on Feb. 19.
Bangladesh exports more than $200 million of goods to Saudia Arabia every year. Last month two agreements and four memorandums of understanding were signed to invest in Bangladesh’s power, chemical, biomedical technology and manufacturing sectors. Bangladesh is expecting more than $30 billion in investment from Saudi Arabia.


Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

Updated 23 min 56 sec ago

Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

  • The Egyptian minister of religious endowments also gave his support to the Saudi move
  • The common practice of foreign pilgrims visiting the Prophet’s Mosque before or after the completion of rituals in Makkah, has also been halted

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims, imposed as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the killer coronavirus, was on Thursday backed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The OIC’s General Secretariat stressed its full support for the Kingdom’s preventive measures aimed at protecting its citizens and worshippers intending to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the decision to suspend entry to the country for Umrah pilgrims was made to ensure public safety and stop the deadly virus, known as Covid-19, from spreading.
The common practice of foreign pilgrims visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, had also been halted, the ministry added.
Approving the move, the OIC said: “The Kingdom’s decision to ban the entry of pilgrims temporarily will help preserve their safety. It comes in line with the adopted international standards and supports the efforts of states and international organizations, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO).”
The OIC’s view was on Thursday echoed by the Council of Arab Health Ministers at the end of its 53rd session being held at the Arab League’s headquarters.
Council members highlighted the importance of “boosting cooperation between Arab states to implement joint measures preventing the transmission of Covid-19 and supporting the affected states when discovering new cases.”
The health ministers also emphasized the necessity of making the most of the adoption of risk assessment systems and approaches for dealing with the virus outbreak among Arab states.
The council commended measures already taken by Arab countries, in accordance with WHO guidelines, to respond, prevent and fight the spread of the coronavirus. It pointed out the importance of promoting communication, the exchange of information, and continuous coordination between Arab League member states and their relevant health bodies and sectors.
However, chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s committee on hotels, Abdullah Filali, warned of tough times ahead for the holy city’s accommodation sector.
He told Arab News that with more than 1,300 hotels, Makkah was heading toward a difficult season with high financial losses if the Umrah ban continued and was extended until Ramadan.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Sheikh Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, gave his support to the Saudi move. “The decision to ban Umrah visas is justified, as it intends to preserve the lives of pilgrims from a certain doom. The Saudi foreign ministry said that this measure is temporary and will be continuously re-evaluated,” he said.
“We all know that crowded places are more vulnerable to the spread of the virus, which was confirmed by the WHO’s reports. We ask Allah to save all humanity and protect Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world against all harm,” the minister added.
Sheikh Dr. Khalid Al-Halibi, director of the House of Expertise for Research and Social Studies, said: “We support our government’s decision which aims to preserve the lives and the well-being of the people. It is a necessary preventive measure that was appreciated by the professionals.”
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic, saying it would provide all necessary information to pilgrims and had doubled cleaning schedules for courtyards and corridors at the Two Holy Mosques.
Highly qualified cadres used the latest cleaning and sterilization tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosques’ department of disinfection and carpets, noting that 13,500 prayer rugs were swept and fragranced on a daily basis.
The presidency added that it was raising media awareness in all languages and via information screens to pass on the latest medical instructions and emergency developments.