Stranded UAE residents can return from June 1

News Network
May 19,2020

Dubai, May 19: In a heart-warming decision to reunite families that have been split by anti-Covid travel restrictions, the UAE has announced that residents with valid visas stranded outside the country can return from June 1.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship said they will begin the process on Monday, June 1, by allowing the return of those residency holders currently stranded outside the country who have relatives in the UAE. Residents who meet this criteria must apply for a Resident Entry Permit on smartservices.ica.gov.ae.

The ministry and the authority said the decision was taken to reunite families that have been affected by the anti-coronavirus measures taken due to the exceptional circumstances.

"The UAE is keen to facilitate the procedures for holders of UAE residency visas who are stuck outside the country and reunite them with their families who were affected by the precautionary measures taken by the country in light of the current exceptional circumstances to combat Covid-19," the federal authorities were quoted by state news agency Wam.

Hundreds of UAE residents are currently stuck abroad and are separated from their families due to the unexpected freeze on air travel imposed by many countries as precautionary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The #BringBackUAEresidents hashtag was trending on Twitter on Monday as several residents and families requested the government to expedite their return to the UAE.

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Economies of Arab countries to shrink by 5.7% amid pandemic: UN report

News Network
July 23,2020

Beirut, Jul 23: The pandemic will exact a heavy toll on Arab countries, causing an economic contraction of 5.7% this year, pushing millions into poverty and compounding the suffering of those affected by armed conflict, a U.N. report said Thursday.

The U.N.'s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia expects some Arab economies to shrink by up to 13%, amounting to an overall loss for the region of $152 billion.

Another 14.3 million people are expected to be pushed into poverty, raising the total number to 115 million — a quarter of the total Arab population, it said. More than 55 million people in the region relied on humanitarian aid before the COVID-19 crisis, including 26 million who were forcibly displaced.

Arab countries moved quickly to contain the virus in March by imposing stay-at-home orders, restricting travel and banning large gatherings, including religious pilgrimages.

Arab countries as a whole have reported more than 830,000 cases and at least 14,717 deaths. That equates to an infection rate of 1.9 per 1,000 people and 17.6 deaths per 1,000 cases, less than half the global average of 42.6 deaths, according to the U.N.

But the restrictions exacted a heavy economic toll, and authorities have been forced to ease them in recent weeks. That has led to a surge in cases in some countries, including Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

Wealthy Gulf countries were hit by the pandemic at a time of low oil prices, putting added strain on already overstretched budgets. Middle-income countries like Jordan and Egypt have seen tourism vanish overnight and a drop in remittances from citizens working abroad.

War-torn Libya and Syria have thus far reported relatively small outbreaks. But in Yemen, where five years of civil war had already generated the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the virus is running rampant in the government-controlled south while rebels in the north conceal its toll.

Rola Dashti, the head of the U.N. commission, said Arab countries need to “turn this crisis into an opportunity” and address longstanding issues, including weak public institutions, economic inequality and over-reliance on fossil fuels.

“We need to invest in survival, survival of people and survival of businesses,” she said.

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Hajj pilgrims stay overnight in Muzdalifah

Agencies
July 31,2020

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Jeddah, Jul 31: Hajj 2020 pilgrims arrived in Muzdalifah Thursday night to rest after spending the day in Arafat.

Earlier, the pilgrims scaled Mount Arafat to pray and repent, as a highly unusual Hajj approached its climax. They listened to a sermon delivered by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manea and prayed Dhuhr and Asr prayers together at the Al-Namirah Mosque in Arafat.

This year’s pilgrimage is the smallest in modern times, after the number of participants was greatly restricted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Tight security was in place around the foot of the rocky hill outside Makkah, also known as Jabal Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, in preparation for the high point of the annual ritual.

Video footage shown on state television showed the pilgrims setting off on their climb to the summit. They wore face masks and observed strict social-distancing rules imposed by Saudi authorities.As sprinklers sprayed water on them to provide relief from the summer desert heat, the pilgrims raised their palms as they climbed the slopes of the hill — the site of Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon. When they reached the top they recited holy verses and prayed for forgiveness for their sins.

Earlier, the pilgrims were taken in buses from Mina to Mount Arafat. Strict precautionary measures were in place, with each group accompanied by security teams, ambulances and civil defense vehicles. 

When they arrived, their temperatures were checked before they entered Namirah Mosque to hear a sermon that was translated into 10 languages.

“The camps were set up for pilgrims in Arafat early on,” said Minister of Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Salih Bentin. The sermon at Namirah Mosque was delivered by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manea, who led the pilgrims in noon and afternoon prayers.

“During Hajj this year, we reiterate that it is essential for pilgrims, as well as everyone assisting them, to adhere to the precautionary regulations that have been implemented,” Al-Manea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said during his sermon. “This is to be done for their own safety.

“Precautions have been put in place to protect lives against the damage that the pandemic can cause, and also to actualize Islam’s teachings pertaining to safeguarding human life by Allah’s permission.”

The stay in Arafat is described as the pinnacle of Hajj and Muslims around the world reflect the actions of pilgrims by asking for forgiveness and praying for their deepest desires.
Pilgrims left Arafat in coaches for Muzdalifah after sunset and will pray the Maghrib and Isha prayers there.

After sunset prayers, the pilgrims made their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, where they will spend the night before the final Hajj ritual, the symbolic stoning of the devil. 

This year, each pilgrim received sanitized pebbles in advance of the event on Friday, which is the first day of Eid Al-Adha.
This year the Kingdom faced the unprecedented challenge of ensuring pilgrims attending Hajj were protected as much as possible from the risks of the coronavirus.

They will then sleep, pray the Fajr prayer there tomorrow and then leave for Mina.

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Makkah welcomes domestic Hajj pilgrims amidst pandemic

Agencies
July 26,2020

Jeddah, Jul 26: The city of Makkah is opening its arms again to welcome pilgrims for the annual Hajj — although only a handful compared with previous years.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event is limited to about 1,000 pilgrims, all from inside Saudi Arabia, about 700 of whom are expatriates.

Abdullah Al-Kathiri, an Emirati and a recovered COVID-19 patient, postponed his pilgrimage last year because it coincided with his wedding plans. “I’ve heard from many who’ve performed the pilgrimage in past years that it was always a smooth process, even with the massive numbers,” he said. “So you could imagine how it would be with the limited number of pilgrims this year. Surely it will be a great experience.”

Khadija, a Bulgarian expatriate, was overcome with tears when she heard she would be performing Hajj this year. “I didn’t expect they’d accept,” she said. “I’m sure this year’s Hajj will be an exceptional one in all respects.”

Dr. Haifa Yousef Hamdoon, a Tunisian physician in Qassim, is another who did not expect to be accepted because of the low numbers this year. “When I received confirmation of my request, I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Mu’taz Mohamed, a Sudanese pilgrim who also lives in Qassim region, praised the preventive and precautionary health measures taken in order to ensure his safety and that of other pilgrims, to enable them to perform the rituals safely.

After completing their arrival procedures, the pilgrims were taken to their accommodation in Makkah, supervised by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. They will stay there for four days before beginning their pilgrimage on July 30.

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