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Saudi Arabia embassy helping to expedite visas for haj pilgrims

PETALING JAYA: The Saudi Arabia Embassy is helping to speed up the process for Malaysians bound for the haj following a delay in the issuance of visas this year.

Such cases involving as many as 200 of the 229 haj pilgrims since the first flight on July 24 until yesterday had been resolved as a result of the embassy’s assistance, said Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH).

The number affected went down from 51 on Friday to 29 yesterday.

“The Saudi Arabia Embassy has helped the authorities in smoothening the process of sending the pilgrims to the holy land.

“We are thankful for its cooperation,” TH said in a statement, according to mStar, The Star’s Bahasa Malaysia portal.

TH said that as of yesterday mor-ning, 49 flights had sent 19,884 Malaysian haj pilgrims to the holy land while another 61 flights are expected to fly out by Aug 26.

On Friday, TH group managing director and CEO Datuk Seri Johan Abdullah said discussions were held between the board and the embassy on the best way to resolve the matter.

Addressing a press conference about the delay, Johan said representatives from the embassy informed them of the efforts they had taken to expedite the visa processing, such as increasing staff capacity.

Johan said the delay was a result of the application system which required approval of 12 processes, including personal details, lodging, flight, transport and food as well as payment details.

“The visa delay was a result of the high number of applications. Malaysia has an increased quota (for pilgrims) from 27,900 last year to 30,200 this year.

“I understand that many countries, too, have received an increase in quota. The system has millions of applications to process in a short time,” he said.

Johan called on all parties to continue to put their trust in TH in handling the matter.

“In the 54 years that TH has been operating, it has never failed to bring pilgrims to the holy land,” he said.