(MENAFN - Arab News) Under the direction of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the Saudi government is giving preferential treatment to Syrian refugees wishing to perform Haj.
An exception was made in the case of Syrian pilgrims in granting them visas in Beirut, as it was impossible to reach an agreement regarding the matter between the Saudi Haj authorities and the Syrian government. Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri said Haj applications for Syrians were being processed in "record time", emphasizing "the embassy is working round the clock to finalize Haj procedures for Syrians, and to ensure they proceed to the Holy places smoothly." The embassy created a special division to implement the King's directive so that the process takes three days at the most.
Asiri added that the embassy has received an order from the king to arrange for Syrian refugee pilgrims to obtain discounted air fares and to be served through designated counters at the airport in Beirut and when they arrive in Saudi Arabia.
He said the embassy has received hundreds of Syrian refugees wishing to perform Haj this year and is expected to receive thousands more during the next few days.
The embassy also formed a special committee responsible for coordinating with the Saudi Arabian Airlines, to guarantee the safe travel and arrival of the Syrian pilgrims.
The Saudi Embassy in Lebanon is not alone in facilitating procedures for Syrian pilgrims. Instructions were given to the Saudi embassies in Turkey and Jordan, the two countries hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees.
Interior Minister Prince Ahmad announced that the Kingdom would not prevent any Syrian delegation or pilgrim from performing Haj this year.
The Saudi Consulate in Jordan has started granting Haj visas for a number of Syrian refugees in Jordan, in line with the king's directive to grant 10,000 Haj visas to Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Director of Azza'atari refugee camp, Mahmoud Al-Amoush, said in a statement that 160 of the camp residents will leave Jordan for Saudi Arabia to perform Haj.
Meanwhile, 1,000 family members of Palestinian martyrs arrived in Makkah to perform Haj as guests of the king. Another 1,000 are expected to arrive shortly.
Pilgrim Aysha Alhaj appreciated the king's support and thanked him for the gesture and for his "continuous determination to end the suffering of Palestinian people." "King Abdullah never forgot our people and he is always keen on providing us with assistance, food and medication." Aysha has lost three family members and said her selection to join the pilgrims mitigated her grief over the loss of her youngest son.