The Indonesian nationals were detained in Manila when Ninoy Aquino International Airport's immigration officers caught them with counterfeit Philippines passport, moments before they were scheduled to depart to Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrimage.
"This is a clear case of fraud where 177 people were lured to go for Hajj pilgrimage using illegal passports as they were unaware of the consequences," observed Saifuddin, who was on a work visit to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on Tuesday.
The pilgrims departed from the country for the Philippines using Indonesian passports. They were scheduled to depart for Saudi Arabia from the Philippines using Filipino passports.
"In this case, the 177 Indonesians became victims. This is an organized crime and we are in the middle of an investigation to track down the individuals behind all of this," he reiterated.
The government is also taking measures to bring the pilgrims home to Indonesia once all procedures are completed.
"Hopefully, this would be resolved soon and they will be able to return home," he stressed.
He further explained that at the moment his office is trying to relocate the shelter where 177 Indonesian pilgrims are detained.
"Right now, we are concentrating on relocating them from the current place, which is not very adequate and comfortable, to a venue arranged by the Indonesian embassy in Manila. Hopefully, it can all be settled soon," he revealed.
The 177 Indonesian Hajj pilgrims were detained in the Philippines as they attempted to undertake pilgrimage using false documents, in order to fit into the Philippines Hajj pilgrim quota. They were then stopped from getting on board the Philippines Airline flight to Madinah.
The Religious Minister and the National Police Force continue their efforts to identify the culprit behind this crime. Other government entities involved in the investigation include the Foreign Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry.
"We will continue to make serious efforts to bring back our citizens as soon as the process is completed," he concluded.
(Reported by Rendra Oxtora/Uu.KR-ARC/INE/KR-BSR/A014)