JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED ARABNEWS
Published — Monday 9 September 2013
Several thousands of illegal Asian expats who wish to be repatriated are missing out on an opportunity to go home on cheap, if not free, flights, due to lack of efficiency on the part of authorities.
About 749 flights from various Asian destinations began flying in Haj pilgrims from Saturday, and these aircraft, some of which are the bigger models, are flying out of the Kingdom empty.
Hundreds of illegals are desperately trying to return home under the amnesty that ends on Nov. 3.
Many of them are struggling to secure one-way tickets home. Illegals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines who have been employed in menial jobs for years would do well to get on these flights.
Expats who have completed procedures at immigration can be relieved of the financial burden of paying repatriation expenses by boarding these empty jets. Expats are urged to reach Jeddah or Madinah by road in order to seek departure through any of these flights after obtaining immigration clearance and provided their governments agree to transport them free of cost.
The consulates of several Asian countries have thus far taken up the issue of repatriation for those who cannot afford airfares on a case-by-case basis.
Diplomatic sources say that organizing repatriation on Haj chartered flights is not an easy task, primarily due to delays in obtaining immigration clearance from deportation centers.
India, which has highest number of illegals waiting to be repatriated, has no plans to transport its nationals on empty Haj flights, Indian Consul General Faiz Ahmed Kidwai told Arab News.
Pakistan Consul General Aftab Ahmed Khokher also told Arab News that PIA is not carrying any illegal on returning Haj flights.
Bangladesh Consul General Mohammad Nazmul Islam, on the other hand, said: “We are exploring the possibilities and the matter is being discussed with Biman. Both the ambassador and myself have endorsed the proposal to carry Bangladesh nationals at minimum cost through empty returning Haj flights during the grace period.”
Indonesia’s Consul for Haj, Syairozi Dimyalati, told Arab News: “Our government is planning to use 10 empty returning Garuda flights to transport illegals. Last year, we used seven such flights to transport nationals in distress, and with this new grace period, the figure is expected to rise.”