Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saudi Arabia threatens to deport more female pilgrims

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Despite effort being made by the Federal Government to stop authorities in Saudi Arabia from deporting Nigerian female pilgrims, the Saudi authorities say there is no going back.

Authorities in the Islamic holy land have already deported over 500 Nigerian women while more are still in detention in Saudi Arabia. One thousand women were detained and about of them already deported for allegedly not coming to the country with male guardians.

A statement from Saudi Press Agency, SPA Friday quotes the Minister in charge of Hajj Affairs in Saudi Arabia as saying “there won’t be any entry to Saudi Arabia for those who don’t comply with terms and requirements of the entry visa to the Kingdom to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.”

Although the statement did not specifically refer to Nigeria, reports from the Holy Land indicate that only Nigerian pilgrims are subjected to the requirement of the entry visa policy.

According to the spokesperson of the Ministry, Hatim Bn Hassan Qadhi, “These terms require women under age of 45 years to be accompanied with a male sponsor during the pilgrimage journey and that is stipulated in the woman’s visa or her sponsor regardless of nationality.”

“This rule is applied to all women in general who want to get an entry visa to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj,” Mr. Qadhi said

The position of the Saudi authorities is despite efforts made by the Federal Government to resolve the impasse. Already, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal has gone to Saudi Arabia with the hope of reaching an amicable solution.

Government sources say the Saudi Government has treated the Nigerian pilgrims with so much contempt that even diplomats have not been allowed to see them. Some of the deported women have also claimed that they had male guardians but were separated from them at the entry point when, as stated by Saudi Arabian laws, men and women had to queue for immigration verifications separately.

The position of the Saudi Government may affect thousands of other Nigerian Muslims who still want to perform this year’s hajj as the Nigerian hajj commission says it is suspending further airlift of pilgrims.

The spokesperson of the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, Uba Mana, said the agency will not resume airlift of pilgrims until all the issues are resolved.

“It does not make sense to airlift people to be detained on landing. We will resume when all outstanding issues are resolved,” he said.

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