HomeMiddle EastEgyptEgyptian Government Cracks Down on Illegal Hajj Travel Following Tragic Death Toll

Egyptian Government Cracks Down on Illegal Hajj Travel Following Tragic Death Toll

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Cairo, June 24, 2024 — Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has taken decisive action against 16 tourism companies accused of illegally facilitating travel to Mecca following the tragic deaths of over 1,100 pilgrims during this year’s Hajj.

The cabinet announced that these companies’ licenses would be revoked, and their managers referred to the public prosecutor’s office.

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The crackdown comes after reports of numerous deaths, many attributed to extreme heat, during the Hajj pilgrimage. Arab diplomats revealed that Egyptians accounted for 658 of these deaths, with a staggering 630 being unregistered pilgrims.

The Egyptian cabinet issued a statement emphasizing that these companies had organized hajj trips using personal visit visas, which are not valid for official entry into Mecca.

“The prime minister has ordered the licenses of these companies to be revoked, their managers to be referred to the public prosecutor, and the imposition of a fine to benefit the families of the pilgrims who died because of them,” the statement read.

The rise in unregistered pilgrim deaths highlights the dangers posed by circumventing official hajj protocols.

Hajj permits are allocated through a quota system and distributed via a lottery. The high costs associated with the pilgrimage have led many to seek alternative, and often illegal, means of participation.

The introduction of a general tourism visa by Saudi Arabia in 2019 has further facilitated this trend, allowing easier entry into the Gulf kingdom but increasing the risk of arrest and deportation for those caught without proper permits.

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Saudi officials confirmed 577 deaths during the two busiest days of Hajj, citing harsh weather conditions and soaring temperatures as significant factors.

Pilgrims endured hours of prayer under the blazing sun on Mount Arafat and participated in the “stoning of the devil” ritual in Mina, both of which contributed to the fatalities.

While the 577 figure covers only part of the hajj period, the overall death toll remains a somber reminder of the pilgrimage’s challenges.

“This happened amid difficult weather conditions and a very harsh temperature,” a senior Saudi official said, acknowledging the partial nature of the death toll and emphasizing the kingdom’s efforts to manage the pilgrimage.

The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims with the means to perform it at least once in their lifetime. This year’s pilgrimage saw 1.8 million participants, with 1.6 million coming from abroad.

The timing of the Hajj, determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, has meant that for the past few years, the predominantly outdoor rituals have taken place during the sweltering Saudi summer.

As the investigation into the illegal facilitation of hajj travel continues, the Egyptian government’s actions signal a commitment to safeguarding its citizens and ensuring that the pilgrimage is conducted through proper and safe channels.

The revocation of licenses and legal proceedings against the involved companies are expected to serve as a deterrent against future violations, aiming to prevent such tragedies from recurring.

In the aftermath of this year’s Hajj, both Egyptian and Saudi authorities face the challenge of addressing the underlying issues that led to the high death toll, ensuring better management and safety for pilgrims in the future.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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