Thousands of Yemenis kept from making Hajj and Umrah, say agencies Hajj and Umrah agencies have threatened to sue the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance to claim YR 25 million in compensation for the ministry’s negligence in not doing enough to help the agencies get visas and travel permissions for more than 100,000 Yemenis to travel to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. The Hajj agencies accused the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance in Yemen of depriving tens of thousands of Yemenis of the opportunity to make Umrah this year, in addition to depriving 160 Yemeni Hajj agencies of work, and putting them at risk of bankruptcy. Hussein al-Sobahi, Vice President of Hajj and Umrah agencies, holds the Ministry of Endowments responsible for the losses of the Yemeni Hajj agencies, predicted to reach YR 25 million, which will prevent the agencies from being able to pay their workers. The ministry has been dealing only with two agencies, and ignoring the rest, say agents. “Why are only two agencies allowed to send Yemenis to make Umrah, when there are more than 100,000 people wishing to do Thousands of Yemenis kept from making Hajj and Umrah, say agenciesthis?” said al-Sobahi. “If nothing is done, only 5,000 people will be able to go.” Although the ministry announced a couple of months ago that it would support 28 agencies to send Yemenis to the Holy Places in accordance with all legal requirements. But it still has not carried out its duty, and is responsible for the crime of depriving Yemenis of the opportunity to make Umrah this year. Al-Sobahi asked the government to move urgently to intervene and to coordinate with the authorities in Saudi Arabia to solve the problem. “We had assurances from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj to address the issue at the highest level of both governments,” said al-Sobahi. “The agencies will step up the protest, and intend to carry out demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Endowments and the Saudi embassy with tens of thousands of people who wanted to go on Umrah to call upon the authorities to deal with this problem, which could lead to the collapse of the agencies.” “On Tuesday, a delegation from the Minister of Endowments and Guidance, Judge Hammoud al-Hitar, and the President of the Association of Hajj Agencies, Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, met the Saudi Ambassador in Sana’a to discuss making an exception to allow Yemeni agencies to sign contracts with Saudi companies and send Yemenis on Umrah,” said al-Sobahi. “The Saudi ambassador promised to communicate with the authorities in Saudi Arabia to solve the problem, while the Yemeni side, including the owners of the agencies, promised to calm the situation and call off the sit-ins they had planned to carry out in front of the embassy,” al-Sobahi added. “The Saudi crown prince has given instruction to the Saudi authorities to allow all of the Yemeni agencies to send the Yemeni people to Umrah, without any obstacles,” said sources in the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance. There are dealings between Yemen’s Prime Minister Dr. Ali Mujawar and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz to solve this problem. The Yemeni government has sent a deputy from the Ministry of the Interior to Saudi Arabia to discuss this problem with the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia. Officials expect that by next week everything will be worked out. Other sources said that Saudi Arabia has strict requirements for agencies, which can be difficult for Yemeni agencies to comply with. For example, Saudi Arabia requests deposits of SR1,000 for every person who wants to travel. This is tricky for Yemenis, most of whom are poor. Also, people who want to on Umrah must be older than 40, except for men traveling with women. Several agencies postponed the sit-in which was meant to take place last Tuesday, after the discussion between the minister and the Saudi ambassador, in the hopes that soon the situation will be resolved.