Syrian Hajis eye Kingdom asylum
Haj pilgrims from Syria have refused to return home after completing the pilgrimage citing the ongoing political unrest and have appealed for asylum in the Kingdom.
With the deadline for leaving the Kingdom having expired, about 1,200 Syrian pilgrims approached the Haj Ministry to help extend their stay in the Kingdom as refugees. However, the ministry has made it clear that the issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior.
“Some 1,200 Syrian pilgrims have decided not to leave and have requested local authorities to extend their stay in the Kingdom,” said Mohammed Khalid Kooki, chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee of the Syrian Coalition in a statement on Monday.
Around 12,000 Syrian pilgrims performed Haj this year with half of them coming from Syria and the other half from neighboring countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt where they are living as refugees.
“The majority of Syrian pilgrims seeking asylum in the Kingdom have arrived from Lebanon where tensions are running high with Syria. Consequently, they don’t want to return to Lebanon and neither are they able to return home to Syria,” Kooki said.
“The Haj Ministry is not authorized to extend the stay of any pilgrim and it is the Interior Ministry which is the appropriate authority in this matter,” said Amin Fatani, director of the Haj Ministry in Makkah.
He said that the ministry treats overstaying pilgrims as violators of the residency laws and that the Syrian pilgrims had already been recorded as violators on the ministry’s electronic tracking system.