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Clouds Hang Over Lives of Migrant Workers as COVID Disrupts Hajj

For about 15 years, Muhammed Kurdi, an Indonesian migrant worker living in Makkah, used to work as a guide for Indonesian pilgrims coming for hajj.

During the hajj season, the father of three used to earn up to 200 million rupiah a month ($14,042).

Now, as hajj restriction forced a ban for the second year on pilgrims from abroad, Kurdi is struggling to keep a living in Saudi.

📚 Read Also: More Than 450,000 People Apply for Hajj on First Day of Registration

“Since the pandemic, I have been jobless, and perhaps all guides in Makkah are like this, unemployed because there are no more pilgrims for umrah and hajj,” Kurdi, 36, told CNA.

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“So, we in Makkah have not been working for over a year.”

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities announced hajj restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kingdom said no foreign pilgrims would be allowed to perform Hajj this year, setting a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims.

A few days earlier, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, cancelled hajj pilgrimage for the second year in a row.

During the past months, Kurdi tried all kinds of jobs such as driving people to vaccination centers or out of town and even being a YouTuber by producing videos of life in Makkah.

He also asked his family in Indonesia to transfer him money whenever he needed.

“Thank God we have savings in Indonesia…but it’s been difficult the past two years. It’s impossible to take from my savings forever. Of course, if you don’t work it will run out,” Kurdi said.

“If it continues like this, of course, we won’t be able to handle it,” he added.

Dim Future

Jeddah-based Basuni Hasan is another Indonesian who used to accompany ministers and other officials from Indonesia for their pilgrimage.

Working in Saudi Arabia since 1993 as a pilgrimage guide, he is now forced to switch jobs.

“During the lockdown, I had no income at all for about six months,” said Basuni.

Like Kurdi, he had to ask his family in Madura, East Java to send him his money from his savings to survive.

“Because I have a family, I have nine children. Some of them are in Madura, some are in Saudi Arabia. That’s the problem.

“There is always someone who gives me food, rice, to eat. But I can’t send anything to my family. I was even helped by Arabs.”

Before the pandemic, Makkah used to see millions of Muslims from around the world pouring in to perform Hajj.

In 2020, Hajj was like no other due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced Saudi government to cut the number of pilgrims to only 1000 to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Having doubts about his future back home, Kurdi has decided to remain in Saudi Arabia, until his work permit expires after seven months.

“That’s why some decide to stay here because they’re uncertain…” added Kurdi.