Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Ministry of Religious Affairs will assume responsibility for 177 Indonesian hajj pilgrims being held by the immigration officials in the Philippines for using fake Philippine passports, a senior religious affairs ministry official said.

Religious Affairs Ministry Inspector General M. Jasin told the press on Tuesday that although these Indonesian would-be hajj pilgrims violated the immigration rules and the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yet the Ministry of Religious Affairs will bear responsibility to resolve it.

He said that the Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, is currently coordinating to resolve the issue.

Jasin said the Religious Affairs Ministry (Kemenag) has set up a special legal team to deal with cases in which hajj pilgrims fall prey to mischievous travel bureaus. In cooperation with the National Police (Polri), the team will help the police to enforce the law and bring to book negligent travel agencies suspected of having violated the law.

The inspector general said the hajj travel bureau suspected to have organized the departure of the 177 Indonesian would-be hajj pilgrims and used fake Philippine passports, is not registered with the Kemenag and is thus an illegal agency.

As of now, 693 hajj travel agencies (PPIU) and 269 special hajj travel bureaus (PIHK) are registered at the Kemenag.

Since the suspected agency has no permit, he said, its action to organize a hajj pilgrimage is categorized as having entered the domain of law. The Kemenag has the right to enforce regulations applicable to PPIU and PIHK.

Kemenag has been taking anticipatory steps to prevent racketeering hajj and minor hajj travel organizers. Since 2015, the Kemenag has imposed sanctions against 14 mischievous hajj travel agencies.

It was reported earlier that 177 pilgrims were detained by the immigration officials at the Manila airport after they were found with false passports. They were detained by the Philippine immigration officials on Friday, August 19, 2016, shortly before they were to embark on an airline that would have flown them to Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Director of Protection for Indonesian Citizens and Indonesian Legal Agency (PWNI-BHI) Lalu Muhammad Iqbal said a team from the Indonesian embassy in Manila and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry identified the 177 Indonesians, now being held at the Immigration detention center in Manila.

They reportedly paid around US$6,000 - US$10,000 per person for the pilgrimage.

This year, Saudi Arabia allocated to Indonesia a pilgrim quota of 168,800, reduced from more than 200,000 a year earlier, due to the ongoing renovation work in Masjidil Haram.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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