PH bars 32 Mecca-bound Indonesians

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07:12 AM July 12th, 2013

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By: Tina G. Santos, July 12th, 2013 07:12 AM

 MANILA, Philippines—Thirty-two Indonesians who were supposed to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca using Philippine passports were barred from entering the country by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

The BI said its personnel in Tawi-Tawi has uncovered a scheme by a Mindanao-based syndicate which provides Muslims with Philippine passports so they can avail of the quota for the Hajj allotted to the country by the Saudi Arabian government.

The scheme was apparently devised by a syndicate who wants to profit from foreign Muslims who could not make it to the pilgrimage because the quota allotted to their country has already been filled up.

The Indonesians recently arrived at the Bongao port aboard MV Mid-East but were turned away by immigration border crossing officers who interviewed them on the purpose of their travel to the Philippines, the BI reported.

With the help of an Indonesian immigration officer stationed at the Bongao port who acted as interpreter, the Indonesians confessed that they had planned to apply for Philippine passports upon arrival to the country so they could avail of the quota for the pilgrimage allotted to the Philippines by the Saudi government.

They said they would temporarily stay at a shelter where they would be taught to speak Sinama, the local Tawi-Tawi dialect, while awaiting the release of their Philippine passport.

The Hajj pilgrimage is a religious duty carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so at least once in his or her lifetime.

The number of pilgrims who can come to Mecca every year is regulated by a quota system for each Muslim country.

Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. already issued an order alerting all BI personnel in the different ports of entry to be on the lookout for foreigners suspected of involvement in the scheme.

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