Published:  03:44 PM, 13 August 2017

68,000 pilgrims yet to reach Saudi Arabia

With just two weeks to the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj, more than half of the 127,198 Bangladeshi pilgrims are yet to make the journey to Saudi Arabia.

According to the Bangladesh Hajj Office in Makkah, 58,361 pilgrims have arrived in the Middle Eastern country until Saturday, which means 68,837 are waiting back in Bangladesh to board a flight.
 
The Hajj will fall on Aug 30 this year, depending on moon sighting. Saudi authorities will issue visas for pilgrims until Aug 17and the last Hajj flight from Dhaka is scheduled to leave on the 26th of the month.
 
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has so far cancelled 23 Hajj flights this year due to a shortage of passengers since it started ferrying pilgrims on July 24.
 
The Saudia Airline has also cancelled four of its scheduled flights to Jeddah.
 
Almost 11,000 pilgrims could have gone to Saudi Arabia in those cancelled flights.

Complications in securing visas for pilgrims this year have led to a shortage of passengers. 
 
The situation has further worsened with the Saudi authorities’ sudden move to impose an additional 2,000 riyals for pilgrims, who performed Hajj in the last two years, which came alongside a hike in the fees for guides in Saudi Arabia.
 
National flag carrier Biman has arranged for extra flights, but there are concerns whether the rest of the pilgrims can reach by the deadline.
 
Amid the situation, the Hajj Office in Makkah held a meeting of its administrative team Saturday night, presided over by the Religious Affairs Ministry's Additional Secretary Faiz Ahmed Bhuiyan.
 
It was decided that the Hajj office will conduct field visits to check whether pilgrims, who arrived through travel agents, were being entitled to the facilities they were assured of.
  Of the Bangladeshi pilgrims, who arrived until Saturday, 55,043 came through travel agents while 3,338 under the government's management.
 
The Hajj office said Saudi authorities have so far issued visas for 103,750 Bangladeshi pilgrims with another 20,841 applications still pending.

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