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As Saudi Arabia bans Sierra Leone…

Hajj pilgrims to be refunded

AUGUST 23, 2014 By Matthew Jabby

President Ernest Bai Koroma
President Ernest Bai Koroma

Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Alhaji Moijueh Kaikai, yesterday told newsmen at the weekly press conference of the Ministry of Information and Communications that all pilgrims who had paid money into the Hajj account and have their receipts intact are advised to go to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank on Monday (25 August) to receive their money.

He said the decision was reached following the ban on pilgrims from Ebola hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – by Saudi authorities.

The Saudis had announced the ban after the World Health Organisation declared a global health emergency due to the ‘worst Ebola outbreak in the world’. The virus has so far killed more than 1000 people in the three countries since the first case was reported in Guinea in February, 2014.

Kaikai revealed that his ministry had lobbied hard to dissuade the Ministry of Hajj Affairs in Saudi Arabia from taking that decision. However, he said, the Saudi authorities refused the overtures from Sierra Leone and the other Mano River Union countries in a letter dated 12 August, 2014 and received on 15 August, precluding Ebola plagued countries from performing hajj this year.

He said he had led a three-man delegation, including Hon. Nuru Deen Sankoh Yillah and Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Jalloh to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in June to facilitate the 2014 hajj, adding that agreements were concluded with authorities in Saudi Arabia to enable 1000 pilgrims from Sierra Leone to perform this year’s rituals, including payment of an advanced fee of US$500,000 to Ahmed Sultan, Deputy CEO of NAS Air, to airlift all 1000 pilgrims from Sierra Leone to the Kingdom.

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