KSA limits Pinoy pilgrims’ visas for umrah to 500

The Kingdom of Suadi Arabia (KSA) will limit the number of Filipino pilgrim visas this year to 500, to prevent illegal migrant workers exploiting pilgrimages and festivals to enter the country.

The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said the visas are for prospective participants of umrah, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that can be done throughout the year.

An article posted Monday night on the Union of Catholic Asian News website quoted NCMF Secretary and CEO Bai Omerah Dianalan-Lucman as saying pilgrims will have to apply at special registration centers in Manila and around the country before July 9.

Lucman thanked the KSA embassy for its “prompt" allocation of the 500 visas for umrah pilgrims despite the problems with job seekers.

Figures from the NCMF’s Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (BPE) showed this year’s umrah will peak in August and September, when Muslims observe Ramadan, their holy month of fasting and prayer.

Eid al Fitr, the Islamic “feast of sacrifice" marking the end Ramadan, falls around Sept. 9 and has been declared a national holiday.

On the other hand, UCAN quoted Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. as saying almost 300 Filipinos without valid documents who had formed a community under Khandara Bridge in Jeddah were deported during Ramadan last year.

A number of Muslim holders of special pilgrimage visas who overstayed were also deported last year.

The National Statistics Office says there are roughly two million Muslims in the Philippines.

Source @ GmaNews

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