Umrah doors are not yet open for Indonesian pilgrims

Saudi Arabia has stated that it has opened the opportunity for Umrah worship. But for Indonesia, that opportunity has not yet been opened, at least until today. A number of technical issues still have to be resolved by the two countries.

This assurance was conveyed by Eko Hartono, the Indonesian Consul General in Jeddah, at the Merdeka Barat 9 Forum, Thursday (21/10). He also straightened out the statement of Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi last week, who said that Saudi Arabia had opened Umrah for Indonesian pilgrims.

“Currently, the application for Umrah for Indonesia has not been opened. So how can we enter Saudi Arabia for Umrah, if the visa has not been opened. So travel companions will also not be able to access it, so please wait for a while until there is a bilateral agreement regarding the implementation of this Umrah, so that later the pilgrims can leave, “said Eko.

Eko Hartono, Indonesian Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  (Photo: Screenshot)

Eko Hartono, Indonesian Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Screenshot)

Eko also said that the letter submitted by the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Jakarta to the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was merely a notification. There was no diplomatic agreement whatsoever in the letter, and no document was signed. Of course, Indonesia welcomes Saudi Arabia’s plan, because tens of thousands of Umrah pilgrims are waiting for it.

The technical issues that must be resolved, said Eko, include linking the Pedulilindungi application with a similar application belonging to Saudi Arabia called Tawakalna. If the two are in sync, the pilgrims’ vaccination data can be known immediately. So far, the vaccine card barcode made by the Indonesian government cannot be read by Saudi Arabia’s devices.

Another thing is related to vaccine brands. Saudi Arabia uses Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca and Moderna. While the majority of Indonesian pilgrims use Sinopharm and Sinovac.

“For those who are vaccinated with vaccines other than the four used by Saudi Arabia, especially Sinovac and Sinopharm, then the person concerned must receive a booster at least once, from the four brands used by Saudi Arabia,” Eko added.

Tens of thousands of worshipers are waiting

The delay in the reopening of Umrah for Indonesian pilgrims certainly has a long impact. Until now, according to Budi Darmawan, General Chairperson of the Umrah and Hajj Organizers Association, there were 62,000 pilgrims delayed in their departure, due to changes in regulations last February 2020.

A female officer from the Saudi Arabian Police is seen standing guard around the Kaaba area as worshipers perform the tawaf ritual on July 20, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Yosri)

A female officer from the Saudi Arabian Police is seen standing guard around the Kaaba area as worshipers perform the tawaf ritual on July 20, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Yosri)

“Where this has been done well in preparation, both payments to third parties from the Jama’at to us. We have made payments to the airline, to the hotel and are ready to go, the visa is also ready, but at that time it will be closed, “said Budi.

Budi admitted that in this recent development there had been a misunderstanding among pilgrims regarding the opening of Umrah. He hoped that the detailed explanation from the Indonesian Consul General in Jeddah this time could reduce confusion. Budi admits that both companies that organize worship and congregations are looking forward to their departure.

Regarding payments that have been made, both to airlines and hotels in Saudi Arabia, according to Budi, the funds are safe.

“We have debts to the pilgrims to send them, but we also have receivables because the money has been deposited with third parties, be it flights or accommodation in Saudi Arabia. So that we can provide information to all pilgrims, God willing, the money is safe,” he said.

Government Solve Technical Problem

Nur Arifin, Director of Hajj and Umrah Development at the Ministry of Religion, noted that of the 62,000 Umrah pilgrims who had not yet departed, some had more complicated problems. The number of this type of congregation is about 18,000 people.

“That’s 18 thousand who have paid for the ticket, already got a visa and left. This could be a problem. Some have arrived in Saudi Arabia, when they arrived in Saudi, there was an announcement to stop Umrah on February 27, 2020, finally returning to Indonesia,” said Nur.

Nur Arifin, Director of Hajj and Umrah Development, Ministry of Religion.  (Photo: Screenshot)

Nur Arifin, Director of Hajj and Umrah Development, Ministry of Religion. (Photo: Screenshot)

Included in this group are pilgrims who have arrived at the departure airport and are ready to board the plane, but then there is a closure. In addition, there are also groups of pilgrims who have arrived at the airport in Saudi Arabia, and then have to return. Looking at the case, it is clear that the ticket fee has already been paid for by the hosting company and used. But pilgrims have not actually performed Umrah.

“This is also a note that there needs to be a solution, and we continue to coordinate with various parties,” added Nur.

The Ministry of Religion also discussed the funds for Umrah pilgrims, which were held up at airlines. They will cooperate with the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) to unravel the issue of Umrah funds.

In addition to the matter of synchronizing vaccination data through applications owned by Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, Nur Arifin also explained that the health sector is also a concern. The Ministry of Religion will discuss this with the Hajj Health Center.

The central government is also coordinating regarding the obligation to receive booster vaccines for Umrah pilgrims. Because this is a rule from Saudi Arabia, but it requires a policy in Indonesia. Indonesia hopes to bid for this vaccine booster rule.

The Ministry of Religion is also discussing the cost of Umrah.

“If it’s normal, it’s Rp. 20 million, because of the pandemic it has increased to Rp. 26 million at least. Well, in 2022, we will revise what the real needs are. Is it still the same as Rp. 26 million or will it increase,” added Nur Arifin. [ns/ab]

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