Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Saudi Arabia opening 'electronic gates' for Qatari Hajj pilgrims

Procedure to be announced soon, Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah says

The 2019 Hajj pilgrimage is expected to begin on August 10. Reuters
The 2019 Hajj pilgrimage is expected to begin on August 10. Reuters

Saudi Arabia's Minister for Hajj and Umrah said there will be "electronic gates" for Qatari pilgrims to register for Hajj this year, saying there were sometimes attempts to ban such websites by authorities in Doha.

"Whoever wants to come for Hajj is welcome. There are procedures that will be announced in coming days," Mohammed Benten told the Al Arabiya news channel on Friday.

Travel for Qatari pilgrims 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.

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.

Mr Benten's ministry announced in May that a new website had been launched for Qataris to register for Umrah, the pilgrimage that can be made at any time of the year. A ministry statement said it set up the website after Qatari authorities blocked the previous one, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The ministry also set up a separate site called Makam for non-Qataris residing in Qatar to register for Umrah.

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 about 1,200.

Meanwhile, citizens of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia have begun arriving at Makkah and Madinah airports for this year's pilgrimage, which is expected to take place from August 8 to 13. Pilgrims from the four countries are travelling under Saudi Arabia's new system of immigration pre-clearance at the points of departure, known as "Makkah Route".

Saudi officials said 2.37 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year.

Updated: July 6, 2019 09:21 PM

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