A delegation from the Anti Visa Fee Committee SA (AVC SA) met senior officials of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) today. The committee raised its serious concern about the excessive visa fees that have just been implemented worldwide.
“We also stressed that in addition to Hajj and Umrah, tourists and South Africans working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are also affected,” said AVFC SA co-chair, Yusuf Abramjee.
According to Abramjee, the umrah season has opened and operators are also taking travel bookings. The system now requires a fee of SR2000 in addition to a SR450 Ministry of Foreign Affairs fee.
“The system will charge every visitor the fee of SR2400 (over R10 000) if one has visited the Kingdom in the last three years,” he said.
DIRCO Chief Director for Gulf States Themba Rubushe, SA Acting Ambassdor to Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Abbas Khan and Consul-General Shoayb Casoo attended the meeting.
The AVFC SA delegation included representatives from the SA Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) and Jamiatul Ulama SA. Fazila Malek from the SA Muslim Travel Association (SAMTA) and Ebrahim Laher, secretary of the AVC SA were part of the delegation.
“DIRCO undertook to take up this issue urgently with their Saudi counterparts. We are delighted. We hope the Saudi Government will at this late stage review its decision,” said Abramjee.
“We made it clear that we in South Africa are not advocating a Hajj/Umrah boycott. Travel agents are taking bookings and everyone is free to make a decision as to whether they are happy to pay the fee and travel. It’s an individual decision,” he added.
Hundreds of millions of rands will leave the SA fiscal annually as a result of the new visa fee. VOC