At least 265,000 more haj pilgrims expected in Saudi Arabia this year

Muslims gather at Changi Airport Terminal 3's departure hall before they leave on their pilgrimage.
Muslims gather at Changi Airport Terminal 3's departure hall before they leave on their pilgrimage.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There will be at least 265,000 more international haj pilgrims this year, said Singapore Pilgrims' Affairs Office (SPAO) director Muhammad Nasir Johari on Saturday (July 29).

Speaking at this year's haj pre-departure briefing at the Singapore Expo, he said that the higher numbers are due to Saudi Arabia's government reinstating at least 20 per cent of quota of pilgrims for all countries. More than two million pilgrims from around the world are set to perform the haj this year.

Mr Muhammad Nasir said: "The safety and the security of our pilgrims are our utmost concern. Pilgrims should always communicate with their (travel agents) or with their officials so that in cases of crisis, the (SPAO) will be able to coordinate things very smoothly and also to allay any fears that family members may have back home in Singapore.

"Families at home can also follow the Singaporean pilgrims' movement... via the Haj.SG Facebook page and Instagram."

A statement by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on Saturday revealed that all 800 places allocated to local pilgrims have been filled up.

SPAO's head, Mr Farihullah Abdul Wahab Safiullah, said: "We would like to thank the government of Saudi Arabia which fulfilled our request to revise our official haj quota from 680 to 800 places.

"Every year, Muis forms a team of medical and administrative personnel to look after the welfare of Singaporean pilgrims. This year, I will work alongside a team which is comprised of two officers from Muis accompanied by five medical officers, 10 nursing officers and five assistant pilgrim officers, who are all volunteers."

The pilgrims' first flight to Saudi Arabia will depart from Singapore on Aug 9.

Subsequent flights will depart from Aug 18 to 26.