Saudi Arabia is giving Hajj pilgrims high-tech safety bracelets

Safety first
Safety first
Image: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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Following the worst disaster to occur at the world’s largest religious gathering in 25 years, the Saudi Arabian government will issue high-tech safety bracelets to Hajj pilgrims this year.

As part of its new measures, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj will make safety bracelets available to all pilgrims, Al Jazeera reported. The device will include personal information such as passport numbers, addresses, and medical information, making it easier to identify and attend to those who need care. The waterproof and GPS-enabled electronic ID will also include information about timings of prayers, as well as a multi-lingual help guide for non-Arabic speaking pilgrims. It’s not clear how much the government has spent on the initiative, and whether pilgrims will need to pay for the bracelets.

In 2015, over 700 people died during stampedes at the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, according to the the Saudi government. That was the worst death toll since 1990, when 1,426 people died in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel. However, a Reuters tally found over 2,000 people died during the five-day pilgrimage last year.

The Saudi government blamed the pilgrims for not following guidelines while navigating the site, but Iranian officials, who lost over 400 of their citizens in the stampede, pointed to the Saudi government for crowd mismanagement—Iran alleged that certain paths were closed off, leading to overcrowding.

In order to improve security, nearly 1,000 cameras were installed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque in June. Special forces are expected to surveil the movements of nearly 2 million pilgrims during the event scheduled for August, Hajj officials said, according to Arab News.