Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Saudi Arabia launches online platform for Qatari pilgrims

Ministry for Hajj and Umrah says online portal set up in accordance to orders from Saudi leadership

Muslim pilgrims go through passport control upon their arrival to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on July 7, 2019, prior to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. AFP
Muslim pilgrims go through passport control upon their arrival to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on July 7, 2019, prior to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. AFP

Saudi Arabia launched an online portal for Qatari citizens and residents who wish to perform Hajj.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Wednesday evening that the platform is live and was set up in accordance with orders from the leadership in Riyadh.

It has also taken several measures to ensure that Qatari pilgrims can enter the country without any complications, despite the two countries not having diplomatic relations.

Travel for Qatari around the GCC nationals is complicated by the break in relations between Riyadh and Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic and travel links with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of promoting extremist groups, supporting terrorism and undermining regional security. Doha denies the accusations.

However, when it comes to Hajj, the Saudi government has taken steps to ensure that Qatari nationals can attend without disruption and allowed special flights to bring them from Doha.

The ministry rejected claims made by the Qatari Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs that the Kingdom is obstructing efforts made by Qataris to visit Mecca.

Instead, Doha has been accused of hindering the registration process for its citizens and various states in the Gulf have called on authorities to halt their actions.

“We are requesting Qatari authorities to cooperate in order to allow its citizens to perform Hajj easily,” the Saudi ministry said in a statement.

Last week, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, called on Qatar not to politicise Hajj and defended the steps that Saudi Arabia has taken to ensure that Qatari pilgrims can enter the kingdom.

“The hurdles that Qatar are imposing on its pilgrims reflect its failures in managing the crisis,” Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

Because of the high demand for the Hajj pilgrimage, which every able-bodied Muslim is required to perform at least once, Saudi Arabia has established a quota system for the number of faithful that can take part from each country.

Qatar's quota in past years has been set at about 1,200.

Saudi Arabia last year offered Qatari nationals Hajj visas on arrival after authorities in Doha accused the kingdom of trying to prevent their citizens from making the pilgrimage.

Officials in the kingdom said 2.37 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year.

Updated: August 1, 2019 04:16 PM

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