Abu Dhabi: From now on, expatriates working and living in the UAE will not get permits to perform Haj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, from the emirates due to stricter adherence to national quotas, officials said on Monday.
“The move means that only citizens of the UAE will be issued Haj permits to perform the pilgrimage this year and in the future,” Dr Ahmad Al Mousa, spokesman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, told Gulf News on Monday.
Dr Al Mousa explained that the Saudi move was applicable to all countries across the world.
As such only citizens of each country will be issued Haj permits, which will be counted towards their country’s Haj quota.
Circulars were issued to Haj operators in the UAE informing them of the move, Dr Al Mousa said.
The move was announced after a meeting last week between the Saudi Ministry of Haj and heads of the Haj ministries across the world to discuss Haj 2017 preparations.
Dr Al Mousa ruled out that the move could result in an increase in the cost of Haj this year. “As many as 20,000 citizens have registered online to obtain Haj permits this year, and only about a third of them will be issued permits and visas to perform pilgrimage.
25% jump in pilgrims from UAE
Dr Mohammad Matar Al Kaabi, Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments said that 144 accredited Haj operators will serve the entire UAE pilgrims community totalling 6,228 — a 25-per cent jump (higher by 1,246) compared to the previous season.
Dr Al Ka’abi added that, thanks to UAE leaders’ support, Haj work has seen significant improvement in addition to the development of the services offered to pilgrims by the official Haj mission.
“As a result, the UAE official Haj mission has become a role model for other missions that are seeking to benefit from its experiences.”
This year’s Haj season 1438 AH saw the registration of as many as 37,000 pilgrims — including 20,000 citizens — through the newly launched online registration system.
Packages ranged between Dh14,500 for bookings at 3 and 4 star hotels, and Dh 30,000 for 5-star hotels, among other benefits.
Earlier, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs assigned 81 centres across the UAE for pilgrims registration.
In January, Saudi Arabia said it will increase Haj quotas this year, after the number of pilgrims hit a 10-year low last year.
The number of pilgrims will be gradually increased and restored to what it was five years ago, according to an official statement.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia has imposed a 20 percent cut in the quota for foreign pilgrims, and a 50 percent cut for domestic pilgrims, to ensure safety during the expansion of the Grand Mosque.
BY THE NUMBERS
In 2016, 1,325,372 foreign and 537,537 domestic pilgrims performed Haj, making a total of 1,862,909 pilgrims. This was the lowest number of pilgrims recorded in the last 10 years.
More than 2.4 million Muslims performed the Haj pilgrimage in 2007, according to reports.