Saudi Govt. ups Haj visas to 4000 from 2019

The Saudi government has increased the Haj quota for Sri Lankan pilgrims by adding 500 visas to the existing number, bringing the total to 4,000 from this year, according to media reports from Riyadh. The Haj pilgrims from Sri Lanka will obtain their entry visas to Saudi Arabia through an online portal for the time, media reports also said.

Quoting Azmi Thassim, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Riyadh, media reports also said that, Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Haleem, Minister for Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs, had expressed his gratitude to King Salman and Saudi Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin for this enhanced facility to allow more Sri Lankans to perform Hajj.

Haleem has said that the new quota would be distributed among the prospective pilgrims on the ministry’s waiting list.

The Minister is also quoted as disclosing that for the first time in Sri Lanka, Haj pilgrims would obtain their entry visas to the Kingdom through an online portal. “We are thankful to the Saudi government for the new service which will save time and effort for the pilgrims,” Haleem has said.

Prospective pilgrims have to apply with the required documents through a licensed travel operator in Sri Lanka, which will obtain the pilgrimage visas for the applicants provided they have not performed Haj in the past five years. Applicants are required to attach their health certificates and other requested documents along with their applications.

“The Saudi government has been considerate in gradually increasing this quota from 2,240 pilgrims in 2015 to 3,500 to this year, and now an additional quota of 500 more pilgrims has been given on a request made by my ministry,” the minister has also said.

Foreign media also reported, “The minister explained that the Easter Sunday bomb blasts had an impact on the movement of the Hajj pilgrimage this year since about 100 pilgrims had withdrawn from the selected list due to pecuniary difficulties. The security situation was quickly returning to normal, and there was no reason for concern, he said. The first flight of pilgrims is scheduled to leave Colombo by Saudi Arabia Airlines on July 15 from Bandaranaike International Airport. Sri Lankan Airlines will also fly pilgrims to the Kingdom. Commending the health facilities and services available in Makkah and Madinah, he said that the Sri Lankan government would also send a team to attend to pilgrims with any urgent medical needs until they were taken to the nearest medical facilities. Last year, the minister recalled that a Sri Lankan pilgrim successfully underwent heart surgery in Mecca.” 

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