World Bulletin / News Desk
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia’s quota for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has been increased by 52,200 to 221,000 pilgrims this year.
She added that Jakarta would therefore no longer ask other countries for their unused quotas as it had done in 2016, when 177 Indonesians were arrested at Manila airport carrying Philippine Hajj passports believed to have been acquired fraudulently for $6,000-$10,000.
"There will be no quotas requested from other countries. Since the [additional quota] increases quite a lot," Marsudi was quoted by metrotvnews.com as saying at the presidential palace.
As the recipient of the largest Hajj quota, Indonesia -- which has a population of around 256 million -- sends around 200,000 pilgrims to Mecca and Medina every year.
It is the largest annual gathering of people in the world.
Each Indonesian pilgrim must pay a deposit of around $2,500 and there are currently more than 2 million Indonesians on the waiting list, prompting some to seek alternatives.
Residents of South Sulawesi province experience the longest queue of up to 32 years.
After it was widely reported that Indonesians were resorting to using Philippine documents, Jakarta had asked the Philippines, Japan and Singapore for their unused quotas last year.
Saudi Arabia, however, refused to approve that proposal on the grounds that no such mechanism had been in place to date.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced late Wednesday that Saudi Arabia would increase the country’s Hajj quota from 168,800 to 211,000 and also grant it an additional quota of 10,000.
Widodo expressed his appreciation to Saudi Arabia for the increase and the Gulf country’s efforts to improve services for pilgrims.