I rise to present a petition signed by local residents. The signatures were collected by a volunteer in Leicester East, Sayeed Askari. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, and travelling to participate is a vital tenet of the Islamic faith. Furthermore, Umrah is a holy passage of Muslims across to Mecca and has immense religious value. Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and is of course in Saudi Arabia. Travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah for the first time is free, but visitors will now have to pay an additional surcharge of 2,000 Saudi riyals, equivalent to £450, for any subsequent visit. This represents a very large increase. Quite simply, any restriction to participating in either pilgrimages is of great concern to the Muslim community in my constituency and elsewhere, and I hope that the Saudi Arabian Government will reconsider the increase.
The petition states:
The petition of residents of Leicester East,
Declares that the Ministry of Hajj of Saudi Arabia has decided to increase the visa fees for foreign visitors to visit the country in order to complete the Islamic pilgrimage for a second time. Hajj is one the Pillars of Islam that every Muslim must complete once in their life time by visiting Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The increase in visa fees will cause hardship to many people who wish to perform this pilgrimage for a second time, which is sometimes carried out on behalf of a family member who is unable to carry out the pilgrimage due to ill health or age.
The petitioners therefore request that Her Majesty’s Government makes representations to the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia which is chaired by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Naif to reconsider the decision to increase the visa fees.
And the petitioners remain, etc.