Aviation Transport

Why we denied 177 Nigerians entry – Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has explained that the visas of 177 Nigerians were revoked at the point of entry in Jeddah, on Monday because they didn’t fulfill the entry conditions and requirements in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the Kingdom.
The Saudi government said the affected passengers out of a total 264 aboard the Air Peace plane submitted incorrect information to obtain a category of visa that doesn’t apply to them, and this was discovered upon their arrival in Jeddah.
The federal government of Nigeria had on Monday said it was investigating the cancellation by the Saudi Arabian authorities of visas of the 177 Air Peace passengers, who were airlifted to Jeddah from Lagos and Kano on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia had initially cancelled visas of all the 264 passengers airlifted by Air Peace on arrival in Jeddah from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) Kano, insisting that the airline should return them back to Nigeria. However, 87 passengers were later allowed entry into the country and the country’s airport officials insisted 177 should follow the Air Peace flight back to Nigeria.
The flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International
Airport (MMIA) Lagos via MAKIA on Sunday night and arrived in Saudi Arabia’s major city, Jeddah, on Monday morning without issues. But on landing, the Saudi Arabia authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas were cancelled.
However, reacting to the development yesterday, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Abuja via a statement posted on its verified X handle (formerly Twitter), said the action was not targeted against Nigerians as the rules apply to citizens of other countries, emphasising the need to always abide by established rules and regulations by all visitors to the Kingdom.
“The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Abuja would like to make a clarification about the media reports and Social Media releases concerning the deportation of Nigerian citizens at the point of entry into the Kingdom.
The passengers who were denied entry, and subsequently deported to their initial destinations, didn’t fulfill the entry conditions and requirements in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the Kingdom, as they submitted incorrect information to obtain a category of visa that doesn’t apply to them, which was discovered upon their arrival.
“The Royal Embassy would like to stress the importance of following the procedures and laws enacted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all visitors. Furthermore, all passengers should review all the documents to determine their conformity with the conditions prior to departing from their countries to the Kingdom.
“This procedure was not limited to Nigerian citizens only, but rather to citizens of other countries,” the Embassy stated.
However, in a swift reaction, Air Peace airlines, in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP, put a lie to the Saudi Arabia clarification, saying travel details of the passengers were shared with the Saudi-Arabia authority before they were airlifted out of Nigeria.
According to the chief operating officer, Air Peace Limited, Oluwatoyin Olajide, visas of all passengers on the said flight to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia were checked and verified through the requisite procedures and were vetted to be valid before departure.
She stated further that the visas were verified using the visa confirmation platform provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia which confirmed the validity of each passenger’s visa before they were allowed to check-in for the flight.
“The visas were verified using the visa confirmation platform provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia which confirmed the validity of each passenger visa before passengers were allowed to check-in for the flight.
“All the Visas of the 264 passengers were duly verified, confirmed, and accepted as authentic for the trip through the Visa Portal provided by the Saudi Arabia Authorities, if not, no passengers would have been able to depart from Nigeria. This is just one of two steps required before a passenger is accepted on the flight to Saudi Arabia.
“The next step is the use of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). We equally use this system to determine the admissibility or otherwise of each passenger on that flight.
“The APIS was live between Air Peace’s reservation system and the Saudi Arabia National Travel Security Center Carrier Portal to transmit passenger details prior to departure, to the Saudi Authorities in order to further determine the admissibility or otherwise of the passengers.
“No Notice of Cancellation or any form of denial from the Saudi Authorities was received against any of these passengers despite the live transmission of their details.
“Furthermore, the Passenger manifest containing the names of all passengers on board the flight was sent ahead to the Saudi Arabia National Travel Security Center Carrier Portal before the flight departure, yet no Notice of Visa cancellation was received against any of these passengers.”
Olajide, however, stated that immigration officers of Saudi Arabia were equally surprised that Valid Visas were cancelled the way it was done.
She also reiterated Air Peace’s resolve to continue to cooperate with relevant authorities in order to unravel the issues surrounding the Visa cancellation.
“We would like to reiterate that Air Peace strictly followed the profiling procedures stipulated by the Saudi Arabian Authorities and we are still shocked that upon arrival in Jeddah, the visas of our passengers were cancelled without any cogent explanation even till now.
“The immigration officers of Saudi Arabia were equally surprised that Valid Visas were cancelled the way it was done. While we empathise with the affected passengers for this development and assure them of our full compliance with the provisions guiding international travels, we wish to state that up till this moment, the Saudi Arabian authorities have not provided any explanations for the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the Visas.
“Air Peace has continued to cooperate with the Authorities to unravel the issues surrounding the Visa cancellation,” she stated in the statement.

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