Last of Maldives pilgrims fear missing Hajj after delay

The last of Maldives pilgrims have expressed fears that they could miss Hajj this year after they were left stranded in the capital ahead of start of the pilgrimage on Monday.

Around 400 pilgrims under the extra 1,000 quota provided by the Saudi government are yet to leave for Hajj despite being scheduled to depart on Thursday.

The Saudi government officially allocates 1,000 pilgrims from the Maldives every year. However, under a special allowance by the Saudi King, Maldives has been receiving an additional 1,000 slots for the past three years which had been allocated to state-run Hajj Corporation.

One concerned pilgrim refusing to be named who traveled to the capital on Sunday said the Hajj Corporation had informed that the last batch was scheduled to leave two days ago. However, the corporation had thus far failed to provide any update on travel to Saudi, he added.

"We don't know if the flight has been arranged or not. We don't when we're leaving. But they said everything would be arranged today [Thursday]. I think the corporation has even scheduled a meeting today," the man told AVAS.

Hajj Corporation managing director Idrees Ismail explained that the additional 1,000 slots had been arranged relatively late. He said the delay was down to the difficulty on getting slot for the flight to the already swamped Jeddah airport.

However, he expressed confidence that the 400 pilgrims would reach Saudi in time.

"We've received 100 percent guarantee from the Saudi Airline that our pilgrims would be taken without further delays. Now we've even been given a scheduled departure time. But we'll reveal the time after it has been confirmed," Ismail said.