Saudi Kingdom temporarily bans Syrian, Pakistani pilgrims
Saudi Arabia has slapped a temporary ban on all Muslims from Pakistan and Syria from performing minor pilgrimage to the kingdom because of visa irregularities, a newspaper reported Monday.
Al-Watan said the ministry of haj (pilgrimage) issued the ban because of widespread "trading in Umrah visas" last year that left an estimated 10,000 pilgrims from the two countries stranded in Saudi Arabia.
According to the ministry, the pilgrims arrived in the kingdom on false visas and were unable to leave because of financial difficulties.
Saudi companies and their agents in Pakistan and Syria will now have to ensure that pilgrims pay all expenses in advance, as well as supplying their full names, date of arrival and hotel bookings in Saudi Arabia, as a prerequisite for obtaining a visa.
In addition, the ministry was in contact with officials in Sudan and Yemen to verify reports of similar visa irregularities. A similar ban will be imposed if the reports were found to be true, it stated.
Of the two million Muslims who traveled to Islam's holy city of Mecca to perform Umrah last year, about 190,000 were from Pakistan and 120,000 from Syria, AFP reported. (Albawaba.com)
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