Published:  05:19 PM, 13 August 2017

Steps in 48 hours to send stranded pilgrims: HC

Steps in 48 hours to send stranded pilgrims: HC
The High Court has given the government 48 hours to take necessary steps for sending stranded Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Ataur Rahman Khan passed the order on Sunday after hearing a petition by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh or HRPB.

Its counsel Manzill Murshid said the court instructed the foreign ministry to open talks with Saudi authorities to resolve the visa issue.

It also issued a rule asking why it would not order the government to form an inquiry panel to take actions against those responsible behind the Hajj chaos.

Secretaries to the religious affairs ministry, the civil aviation ministry and the foreign ministry and secretary general of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh have been ordered to come up with explanations in four weeks.

As many as 127,198 Bangladeshi pilgrims are expected to perform the Hajj this year.

But until Saturday, 58,361 pilgrims reached Saudi Arabia.

Complications in securing visas for pilgrims this year have led to a shortage of passengers forcing Biman Bangladesh Airlines to cancel over two dozens of Jeddah flights this year.

The religious affairs ministry says information about the rented accommodations of pilgrims is required for visa applications. Travel agents have delayed filing visa applications as they deemed the rent would come lower as the Hajj nears, creating a backlog.

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.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has so far cancelled 23 Hajj flights this year due to a shortage of passengers since it started carrying 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.

The Bangladesh Hajj Office in Makkah said Saudi authorities have so far issued visas for 103,750 Bangladeshi pilgrims with another 20,841 applications still pending.

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