Georgia transiting Hajj pilgrims
By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, November 17According to information of the Russian border defense service, as of November 15, the Zemo Larsi checkpoint at the Georgia-Russia border had been crossed by 2013 pilgrims from the northern Caucasus heading for Saudi Arabia. As previously reported, Georgia recently introduced amendments to the visa regime for north Caucasus citizens and they can now travel in Georgia for 90 days without a visa. This has been the main stimulus for Muslims from the north Caucasus to travel via Georgia to Saudi Arabia. Most of the buses transporting Muslim pilgrims via Georgia come from Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya. The Russian media was very impressed by the fact that Georgian border control services did not allow a bus carrying pilgrims from Astrakhan because visa free regime is available only to citizens of the north Caucasus. Muslim pilgrims from the Russian Federation prefer traveling by bus for the Hajj, because it is much cheaper than flying. Before Georgia abolished the visa requirements for north Caucasus citizens, the pilgrims travelled through Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. According to the quota issued by Saudi Arabia 20,500 Russian citizens can travel into the country, 8000 of these could be from Dagestan (its president Magomed Salam Magomedov already traveled to Mecca). The quota also envisaged 3,000 Chechens and 1,500 from Ingushetia.