NAIROBI, September 10 – The government has now extended the validity of passports from one to 10 years for Muslims travelling to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ made the announcement Wednesday following complaints by a delegation of Muslim leaders who had visited his office.
“This will be the standard procedure, our Muslim brothers are Kenyans and will be treated as such when applying for the passports,” he said.
The Minister also relaxed earlier requirements for Muslims to produce more documents proving their Kenyan nationality when applying for passports.
“I understand that our officials have made it difficult for our Muslim brothers applying for passports. This is going to be worked on and their applications will be considered like those of other Kenyans,” he said.
The leaders had protested that even Muslims aged over 50 years were required to provide identity cards for their parents or title deeds to prove their nationality.
“It is such a humiliating experience and we wonder why it is only happening to Muslims,” Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) Director of Religious Affairs Mohammed Shabwana protested.
He said Muslims applying for passports were asked to provide more documents than those required from other citizens.
“Why is it that other people are asked to provide a national identity card and a birth certificate yet Muslims are asked for identity cards for their parents and sometimes title deeds to prove their nationality?” he posed.
Kajwang’ could however, not explain reasons for the perceived discrimination on Muslims but assured that the anomaly would be corrected.
The leaders said more than 400 Muslims were unable to travel for the Hajj last year due to the harsh restrictions at the Immigrations Department.
More than 2, 000 Muslims from Kenya travel annually for the Hajj celebrations that are held in Saudi Arabia.