ISLAMABAD, Jul 23 (APP):Saudi Arabia recently launched the Makkah Road Initiative in Indonesia and Malaysia in order to facilitate the journey of pilgrims.
The Kingdom will provide the service to pilgrims from any country “wishing to benefit from it”, the Center for International Communication (CIC) quoted Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Abdulaziz Al-Yahya, Director General of Passports and head of the Makkah Road initiative, as saying.
The service will offer pre-clearance of immigration for pilgrims at their respective points of embarkation.
Saudi and Indonesian officials attended the launch of the initiative at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta after the service was launched in Malaysia last week, Saudi Gazette reported.
The officials were briefed on the implementation and operation of the system. They also met the first batch of Indonesian and Malaysian pilgrims who experienced the unified electronic system.
The decision to introduce the service in Malaysia and Indonesia was made on the basis of the large numbers of pilgrims coming from those two countries.
However, with some 1.75 million pilgrims arriving from abroad last year, Saudi authorities are considering extending the service to other countries in the coming years.
Maj. Gen. Al-Yahya said in a statement: “The first journey for Indonesian pilgrims benefiting from the Makkah Route service has started. Before that, the first two journeys for Malaysian pilgrims were launched from the Kuala Lumpur airport.”
“The Makkah Road initiative will be implemented in any country wishing to benefit from it,” he added.
The Makkah Road initiative was formally launched at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, from where the first two flights carrying pilgrims who completed their entry procedures for the Kingdom left.
In Jakarta, the launch was attended by Maj. Gen. Al-Yahya and Ossama Mohammad Al-Shuaibi, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Indonesia. The initiative is overseen by a Saudi team from the Ministry of Interior.
The head of the Saudi delegation said that the Ministry of Interior developed the service as part of the National Transformation Program 2020 and to achieve the goals and objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 that aims to improve Haj services.
Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif said the initiative “will continue to be implemented” for the benefit of the pilgrims.
The government agencies in Saudi Arabia providing the services to pilgrims within the Kingdom include the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, Saudi Customs, and the National Information Center
The services include issuance of visas, customs and passport procedures, facilitating health requirements, as well as sorting luggage according to transportation and housing arrangements in Saudi Arabia.
These pre-departure services will not only ease the arrival of pilgrims in the Kingdom, but will also allow them to head directly to their accommodations in Makkah and Madinah without having to deal with time-consuming procedures.
Luggage is handled by agencies that transport baggage directly to the visitors’ accommodation.
Saudi Arabia is also facilitating access for pilgrims from Qatar by allowing them to register via an online platform.
Haj officially begins on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah and ends on the 13th day of the same Islamic month, corresponding to August 19-24.
More than 2.35 million pilgrims performed Haj last year, about three-quarters of whom came from outside the Kingdom.