More S'pore pilgrims can go on haj

More S'pore pilgrims can go on haj
Dr Yaacob said 680 pilgrims from Singapore will go to Mecca this year, after Saudi Arabia reinstated places.

SINGAPORE - Another 136 Singaporean pilgrims will get the chance to perform the haj this year after the Republic's quota was increased.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said 680 people will travel to Mecca, up from the expected 544.

The change came after Saudi Arabia - which hands out quotas to each country wanting to send pilgrims - reinstated 136 places that had earlier been cut due to expansion works near the Holy Mosque. All of them have since been allocated.

Dr Yaacob said the Saudi government is still considering a request to increase Singapore's official haj quota to 800 next year, in view of its population growth.

Each country is allowed to send 0.1 per cent of its Muslim population - currently 680 for Singapore.

Saudi Arabia used to give out additional visas to countries on top of their official quotas. However, it stopped the practice last year when works near the mosque began.

Singapore was awarded 1,500 additional visas each year from 2008 to 2011.

Dr Yaacob said: "We hope when the work is completed, they will be able to reinstate and give us the higher quota that we want."

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