Visa delay leaves 140 Hajj pilgrims stranded in Bangladesh

Each pilgrim may need to pay an additional $400 as they will be taken to Jeddah from Madinah on two different flights, according to a Biman official

Published : 21 May 2023, 05:37 PM
Updated : 21 May 2023, 05:37 PM

As many as 140 Hajj pilgrims in Bangladesh have missed their flight to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah after a delay in the completion of visa processing.

They are now worried about whether they will be able to perform the ritual this year.

A first Hajj flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying 415 pilgrims left Dhaka on schedule early on Sunday, followed by two more flights in the morning, and three in the afternoon, with the seats for these pilgrims vacant as they were left behind at Ashkona Hajj Camp.

Another flight was scheduled to leave for Jeddah at 10:50pm.

Last year, 300 Hajj pilgrims failed to reach Saudi Arabia due to arrangements with fraudulent travel agencies. This year the number of pilgrims declined due to a rise in the cost of doing the Hajj pilgrimage.

Hajj pilgrims can go to their hotels directly this year as they can complete all the paperwork in the Ashkona camp under the 'route to Makkah' service.

The Hajj pilgrims said they came to the camp a day ago to catch Sunday's flight as per the directives of their agency, Jannat Travel. They said the agency informed them at the last moment that they had not got visas, and the flight scheduled for 2:20am left without them as a result.

“The pilgrims didn’t appear at our Hajj counter, so we had to leave without them. We have heard that they didn’t get the visa," said Golam Sarwar, the Hajj coordinator of Biman.

Jannat Travel could not be reached for comment.

Gaziur Rahman, one of the pilgrims who missed the flight, said Jannat Travel told them that they did not get the visas due to a “technical error”.

Saiful Islam, director of the Hajj camp, said they have talked to the representative of Jannat Travel, and the issue was being settled.

"Within 6 in the evening, 136 pilgrims got their visas, and the remaining four will get theirs as well. We will try to send them to Saudi Arabia on another flight by Monday,” he said.

A Biman official said the 140 pilgrims who had missed their flight cannot go to Saudi Arabia on a dedicated Hajj flight, and they have to take a regular flight.

“First, they would be taken to Madinah, and then it may cost $400 per person.”

State Minister for Religious Affairs Md Faridul Haque Khan said they were looking into the matter, and steps will be taken to prevent the recurrence of such issues.