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Somali Hajj pilgrims reluctant to return home

As many as 2,292 Somali pilgrims have asked for the extension of their Hajj visa to prolong their stay in the Kingdom

Published: Updated:

As many as 2,292 Somali pilgrims have asked for the extension of their Hajj visa to prolong their stay in the Kingdom because they were not in a hurry to return due to the precarious security and worsening economic situation back home, according to Al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday.

The daily said the pilgrims who wish to stay back represented 31.48 percent of a total 7,280 Somali pilgrims who performed Hajj this year.

Sources in the Tawafa Establishment for Arab Pilgrims said the demand by Somali pilgrims might trigger problems between the pilgrims and the official Somali Hajj mission, which is representing them.

They said this was a common problem during the past two years wherein pilgrims from the politically unstable countries would not have any desire to go back.

Chairman of the Somali Hajj Mission Ahmed Luqman said talk about pilgrims wishing to stay in the Kingdom should only start after the expiry of the Hajj visas on Oct. 28 (Muharram 15). Luqman said there were two flights every day flying to Mogadishu carrying 400 pilgrims.

Luqman, on the other hand, questioned the figure of the Tawafa Establishment, saying that only about 26 percent of the Somali pilgrims still remained in the Kingdom and the rest have already flown out of the country after performing Hajj.

He said a total of 7,440 pilgrims came from Somalia, not 7,280 pilgrims as the establishment had said.

According to the mission’s figures, 5,450 pilgrims have left while the establishment is saying that those who have actually left the Kingdom were 4,983.

Luqman said 1,950 pilgrims are still remaining while the establishment is saying that 2,293 Somali pilgrims are still in the Kingdom.

According to the figures of the establishment, six Somali pilgrims died during the Hajj while the mission gave the number of the dead at 16.

A source at the Hajj Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the responsibility of the ministry toward the pilgrims ends with the end of the Hajj season on Muharram 15.

He said after this date, the pilgrims will be treated as overstayers who have violated the Kingdom’s residency law.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 15.