6.2m Umrah visas issued

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Muslims pray and gather around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in this June 8, 2016 photo. (REUTERS)
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RIGHTEOUSNESS: Ramadan’s first Friday saw the faithful coming to the Grand Mosque in their thousands for Umrah and tawaf. (AN photo by Ahmed Hashad)
Updated 11 June 2016

6.2m Umrah visas issued

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has issued this season over 6.28 million visas for Umrah pilgrims, with an estimated 900,000 expected in Makkah this Ramadan, according to a media report on Friday.
The figures till June 9 show that over 5.47 million pilgrims have already entered the country. Most visas were issued to Egypt at 1.296 million, Pakistan at 968,550, Turkey at 470,944, and Jordan fourth at 426,326, most of which were issued to Iraqi citizens.
Khalid Al-Shamsan, executive director of an Umrah company, said that there has been a decline in Umrah visas issued to some countries because of poor economic conditions in the region and globally. The Ministry of Haj and Umrah only issues new visas once pilgrims who are in the country leave, he said.
Waleed Abu Sabaa’, an investor in the Umrah sector, said this year has seen more Umrah pilgrims than last year, but there has been a general decline in visa applications over the previous years. Most pilgrims applied during Shabaan and confirmed their bookings. Applications close on Ramadan 15, he said.
Meanwhile, authorities are implementing a major health and safety plan. Hmour Al-Ayadah, director for safety at the Grand Mosque, said there are measures in place to help elderly and sick people, with emergency exits ready for quick evacuation. There are also areas to store property and equipment.

Saudi Arabia to send Syrians an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid

Updated 26 April 2018

Saudi Arabia to send Syrians an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid

  • Total relief provided by the Kingdom since the war began now stands at about $1billion
  • Latest package announced by Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir at conference in Brussels

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will provide an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the people of Syria, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

The announcement of the latest aid package was made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir on April 25 at an international conference on the future of Syria and the region, held in the Belgian capital Brussels. He pointed out that the meeting comes after the suspected chemical attack in the city of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, which killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.

“The world is facing a regime allied with terrorist militias who believe that spreading atrocities and committing crimes will bring victory to it, and that war crimes are bearing fruit,” said Al-Jubeir. “In addition to bombing civilians with explosive barrels, the policies of starvation and siege, ethnic and sectarian cleansing, and the demographic change of Syrian cities and towns, its use of chemical weapons have shocked the entire world.”

He said that the only acceptable solution to the Syrian crisis is a peaceful political resolution, and that Saudi Arabia has been working to achieve this since the crisis began, while also working with others to end the continuing human tragedy in the war-torn country.

The Kingdom has played a role in unifying the ranks of the Syrian opposition and encouraging them to speak with one voice, he added. After the Riyadh 1 Conference in 2015, Saudi Arabia hosted the Riyadh 2 conference for the Syrian opposition in November 2017, which succeeded in unifying the factions and establishing a negotiating body to take part in the rounds of talks held since then, earning praise from the United Nations.

The foreign minister also reiterated his country’s support for the efforts of the UN secretary-general’s envoy, Stephan de Mistura, to resume negotiations between all sides of the conflict.

“The Kingdom hopes that the agreements endorsed by the international resolutions on the ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to its beneficiaries will be implemented throughout Syria, regardless of their ethnic, religious, sectarian or political affiliations, and calls for the speedy release of detainees and abductees and clarifying the situation of those absent,” said Al-Jubeir. “It also renews its demand to punish individuals and institutions for war crimes and to prevent their impunity.”

He added that the worsening humanitarian crisis affecting refugees inside and outside of Syria should add to the urgency of finding a political solution and resuming the negotiating process as soon as possible.

Since the war began, the Kingdom has taken in about two and a half million Syrians and treats them like its own citizens, Al-Jubeir said, providing them with free health care, work and education. Saudi universities and schools have more than 140,000 Syrian students. He added that Saudi Arabia is also supporting and helping to care for of millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, in coordination with the governments of those countries. The humanitarian assistance provided so far totals about $1 billion.