A total of five thousand seven hundred and thirty six (5,736) Muslims who have paid to embark on a holy trip to the the Holy City of Mecca to participate in the annual ritual have left the country.
The pilgrims according to the Chairman of the Hajj Board Sheikh I.C Quaye are pilgrim who make payment for the journey, between the March 13 and June 30 deadline.
He gave the assurance that pilgrims who have paid and have successfully undergone the processes have all been airlifted to Mecca and that no pilgrim has been left behind.
He pointed out that as part of arrangements, the Saudi authorities have now made it mandatory for all pilgrims to have their finger prints taken by accredited national companies in each Hajj participating country as a prerequisite for visa acquisition.
He also said Ghanaian pilgrims have gone through the process.
“The cost is borne by the Kingdom. The rationale for this new policy is to prevent multiple Hajj within 5years.
Repeated pilgrims according to him now pay a penalty of GHC3000.
The departure plan, he averred included ten flights from Tamale and twelve from Accra while Tamale lifted 2,640 pilgrims, Accra lifted 3,096.
At a press conference to round up arrangements for the final departure of the pilgrims, Sheik I.C Quaye stated that the board has put in place modalities to improve travelling conditions this year, and that peacekeeping security men and women have been tasked to accompany this year’s pilgrims to Mecca, with accommodation and feeding arrangement handled weeks before the departure.
He said: “Last year the board experienced a peculiar challenge with accommodation. Since the hotels were scattered, there was a challenge with communication, mobilization and rendering of services. But this year 13 hotels have been rented all in the same locality.”
Pilgrims will also be fed twice daily throughout their stay in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as mandated by the Saudi authorities.
He averred that though pilgrims have undergone health screening by the medical team of the Pilgrim’s Affairs Office Of Ghana, a second screening exercise will be undertaken on their arrival because of that eight clinics have been established in Mecca and five in Mina and Arafat to serve the pilgrims.”
He also enumerated that the the huge financial and moral support and cooperation accorded the hajj board by the executives, in particular, President Akufo-Addo and his Vice Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, with the co-operation of the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta cannot be overlooked.
“The president’s unconditional readiness to facilitate the pilgrimage of 432 leftover pilgrims in 2016 by the previous board, in particular, won the admiration of all and sundry,” he said.
The 2018 Hajj officially begins from Sunday, August 19 to Friday, August 24, with three million Muslims expected to gather in the Holy City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia.