Egypt revokes licences of 16 travel agencies over mass Hajj deaths

  Sun, 23 Jun 2024
Egypt Egypt revokes licences of 16 travel agencies over mass Hajj deaths

Egypt has stripped 16 travel agencies of their licences for their involvement in arranging illegal trips for unregistered pilgrims as part of measures taken by the populous Arab country after the reported deaths of hundreds of them in the just-ended Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia due to scorching heat.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli ordered the revocation of the 16 tourism companies' licences for defrauding unregistered pilgrims, referring their officials to public prosecution and levying fines on them to the benefit of families of the dead pilgrims, the Cabinet said in a statement.

The steps were taken at a meeting of a task force that President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi ordered formed to handle the crisis and investigate its causes.

More than 50,000 Egyptian pilgrims travelled through the country's official Hajj mission and 31 of them died due to chronic diseases, the statement added without giving figures about unregistered pilgrims' deaths.

Efforts are underway to determine the number of the Egyptian unregistered pilgrims as no data are available on them.

A report compiled by the task force attributed high deaths among the Egyptian unregistered pilgrims to illegal trips organised by some travel agencies using visit visas for Hajj hopefuls.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said a Hajj visa is mandatory to perform the annual pilgrimage that coincided this year with extreme heat, and cracked down on fake tours on its soil.

Saudi authorities also said that a visit visa does not allow its holder to perform the Hajj and barred such holders from entering the holy city of Mecca and nearby sites where the pilgrimage rites take place.

“This was circumvented by trekking on desert routes without providing proper accommodation places, thus exposing the unregistered pilgrims to exhaustion as a result of high temperatures,” the report said.

A visit visa-based pilgrimage journey costs less than an official trip for Hajj.

Teams from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are currently touring Saudi hospitals to get data on Egyptian pilgrims who are receiving medical treatment there, or have died or gone missing.

The Egyptian government has urged families of the missing pilgrims to contact emergency hotlines set up by the Foreign Ministry.

Hajj is one of Islam's five obligatory duties. Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to undertake it at least once in a lifetime.

Around 1.8 million Muslims, including 1.6 million from abroad, performed this year's Hajj.


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