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13.11.2010 Religion

About 2,439 pilgrims embark on hajj this year - Ministry

By GNA
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Accra, Nov. 12, GNA - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration on Friday said about 2,439 pilgrims embarked on the Hajj this year.

In a statement issued in Accra, the Ministry said an agreement was reached with Egypt Air to organise and provide nine flights from Ghana to Medina, Saudi Arabia.

"As at now all the nine flights which were arranged have since left with 2,439 pilgrims," it added.

The statement said the 2010 Hajj took off smoothly with the usual support of the Government and National Chief Imam's Office to assist the National Hajj Committee (NHC) to improve upon the success of the previous year's performance in organising the pilgrimage.

The Hajj Ministry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia granted a quota of 2,500 pilgrims from Ghana for this year and this number formed the basis for the National Hajj Committee planning of the 2010 pilgrimage.

The statement said due to increased patronage, the National Hajj Committee found the need to increase the size of the contingent beyond the original 2,500, and adequate arrangements were made for accommodation both in Mecca and Medina as well as their flight to and from Saudi Arabia.

However, it said the Hajj Committee's request for visas for the additional number had unfortunately not been met by the Saudi authorities after long and strenuous efforts even with the intervention of the Government through the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

During its initial planning, the National Hajj Committee had organised enough financial resources to absorb the increased demand, hence the committee went ahead to pay for their accommodation in Mecca and Medina.

Unfortunately, in the middle of all these arrangements, an injunction was placed on the committee's account by the court for a plaintiff, who is claiming the Hajj Board of 2008 took 241,000 dollars from him.

"This obviously has impacted on the finances of the NHC and for that matter their operations," it said.

The statement said all these constraints notwithstanding, the NHC managed to fulfill the conditions precedent for the application for the visas but unfortunately, the Saudi authorities had declined the application.

"It can therefore be observed that the government, the National Chief Imam and the NHC have all wished to have made all that is humanly possible for the over 300 extra pilgrims to perform the Hajj this year but Allah, the Almighty knows best and has all the power. The Kaaba is the house of God and it is His to decide and not for us," the statement said.

It said; "The NHC sincerely apologizes to the pilgrims and their families for the inconveniences this unfortunate situation may have caused them".

"All pilgrims, who have paid up for the trip, would have the option of refund, and those from far off regions would be assisted to return to their loved ones. All those who have paid and are unable to go, would be given priority in the arrangement of next year's (2011) Hajj," the statement added.

GNA

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