The Indonesia Hajj body will prioritize the return of elderly and high-risk pilgrims after they have completed the Hajj, according to Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas.
“We have instructed our officers to give priority to the return of high-risk elderly pilgrims to Indonesia, as I believe it will be beneficial for their health,” said Qoumas at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday afternoon.
He emphasized that due to the climate difference between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, elderly and high-risk Hajj pilgrims should not wait too long before returning.
High-risk pilgrims can return earlier to Indonesia by occupying available seats on earlier flights, he added.
Qoumas assured that Hajj officers will assist high-risk pilgrims during their return flights.
“Families waiting for their returning relatives should not be concerned; just pray that the pilgrims will arrive safely and in good health in Indonesia,” he said.
The minister also commended Indonesian Hajj pilgrims for maintaining order and adhering to Saudi or Indonesian regulations while performing the pilgrimage.
However, he highlighted that the number of Hajj officers assisting Indonesian pilgrims is still far from ideal, especially as they also need to assist elderly and high-risk pilgrims who are traveling without their usual relatives to support them.
The government has decided to no longer allow a family member to accompany the elderly for Hajj, as this would be unfair to other prospective Hajj pilgrims who have been waiting for their turn for years.
“If we consider the ratio, currently, we have one officer for every fifty pilgrims. We also know that some officers are assigned to various locations such as airports, Mecca, and Medina, which increases their workload,” Qoumas said.
He said that he has expressed these concerns to Saudi officials, and the government will negotiate with them to allow for additional Indonesian Hajj officers in key areas, especially during the peak of Hajj rituals.
“We have discussed this in a recent meeting, and there are several possibilities to improve services for Hajj pilgrims,” he added.