Saudi government and their Hajj Ministry came up with a new rule imposed on Pakistani pilgrims wishing to perform will now must go through a biometric verification before they apply for any Hajj or Umrah visa. Visa applications without any biometric verification will be instantly rejected. The chaos among the pilgrims enraged when Saudi Authorities revealed that visa application that are already accepted will also fall into the category of biometric verification. This decision created a panic among the pilgrims who already had got their visa process completed but now they have to visit the biometric verification centers which has created a panic among the pilgrims.
It is reported by the officials that the organization that has been given the responsibility of the data of fingerprints of Pakistani pilgrims is a Dubai-based firm which is headquartered in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, i.e. Eitmad. It is also revealed that Dubai based office is chaired by an Indian director.
The local travel agents reported that the fee for biometric verification is 600 Pakistani Rupees. The foreign company is sucking millions from this so called mandatory procedure which is newly imposed by Saudi authorities for the verification of finger prints before apply for the Umrah visa.
The main problem is people from all over Pakistani plan to go for the blessed Journey of Umrah and they contact their local travel agents to get Umrah visa and other services that are required for the Umrah visit. The offices of biometric verification are located in federal capital and provincial capitals i.e. Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.
A representative of the concerned company said that one branch has the capacity of verifying 330 people on daily basis, while according to travel agents the proportion of visa requests is potentially higher than the capacity of these centers as they receive almost 6000 to 9000 Umrah applications on daily basis across Pakistan.
Now the pilgrims from rural area who are mostly aged between 55 to 70+ have to come verbally all the way from their home towns to the verification offices, to complete their visa procedures. This is getting worse day by day as not everyone can come all the way from their rural areas just for a thumb impression because a large proportion of people who visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah are elder and aged more than 70 years.
A protest also took place on Tuesday by local travel agents association in front of Karachi Press Club. The travel agents criticized the new condition of biometric verification. According to them, the biometric verification is a discomfort for both passengers and travel agents as they have already booked their customers flight tickets and their visas are issued before this new rule was implemented. They requested the government to play its role in terminating the new condition.
Article is published by www.makkahtour.pk
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