Indonesia’s president announced Monday that Saudi Arabia has agreed to increase its Hajj quota for pilgrims from the world’s most populous Muslim country after it was revealed that hundreds of Indonesians resort to using Philippine documents.
Joko Widodo said in a press release that he reached the agreement during a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China earlier this month.
"I spoke with Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia in Hangzhou, that Indonesia requests additional Hajj quota, and he has agreed for it to be increased," he said, adding that Prince Salman is due to visit Indonesia in the near future to further discuss the issue.
Widodo also revealed that the Philippines, Singapore and Japan had agreed to transfer their unused Hajj quotas to Indonesia.
Last month, 177 Indonesians were arrested at a Manila airport while carrying genuine Philippine Hajj passports believed to have been acquired through “fraudulent means” in exchange for $6,000-10,000 each.
Of them, 168 were repatriated after Philippine authorities cleared them for deportation, but kept nine others in custody for further investigation.
Following the scandal, the Philippines suspended the issuing of Hajj passports to pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia pending the outcome of an investigation.
"By the time Prince Salman travels to Indonesia, there may already be a statement on how much additional quota can be given to us," Widodo said Monday.
Last week, Widodo had asked his visiting Philippines counterpart Rodrigo Duterte for the neighboring country’s unused quota -- a request with which Duterte agreed.
Indonesia’s minister of justice and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, said Wednesday that a total of 500-700 Indonesian pilgrims using Philippine passports had arrived in Saudi Arabia -- with Duterte later agreeing to repatriate them upon their return to the Philippines.
Indonesia’s president expressed hope Monday that once the country’s Hajj quota is increased, nationals would stop resorting to illegal methods to join the pilgrimage.
As the recipient of the largest Hajj quota, Indonesia -- with a population of around 256 million -- sends around 200,000 pilgrims to Mecca and Medina every year for 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 to registering for the pilgrimage from the archipelago. Residents of South Sulawesi province experience the longest queue of up to 32 years.