Egypt revokes licenses and prosecutes 16 travel agencies over hajj trips violations

Zeinab El-Gundy , Saturday 22 Jun 2024

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly ordered on Saturday the revocation of licenses for 16 tourism companies involved in making illegal pilgrimage arrangements for Egyptian Hajj hopefuls over the death of hundreds of Egyptian pilgrims during the 2024 Hajj season.

Egyptian cabinet
Part of the Egyptian cabinet meeting on Saturday 22 June, 2024. Photo courtesy of Egyptian cabinet Facebook page.

 

The companies' managers will also be referred to public prosecution on charges of fraud, according to a statement by the cabinet.

This decision was made during a meeting of the task force formed by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday to address the situation following the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj season.

During the meeting, the cabinet announced the death of 31 pilgrims who suffered from chronic illnesses among Egypt's official mission of pilgrims comprising over 50,000 pilgrims.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, a member of the task force, explained that most of the deceased were performing Hajj on trips not registered with the Saudi government and, therefore, did not qualify for services made available to registered pilgrims amid extreme heat conditions.

PM Madbouly, who heads the task force, extended his condolences to the families of the deceased pilgrims and reaffirmed the government's commitment to providing them with the necessary support.

The task force monitors the conditions of Egyptian pilgrims, supports the families of the deceased, and coordinates with Saudi authorities to facilitate necessary procedures, noted the prime minister.

Madbouly said the task force is tracking violations committed by tourism companies in organizing Hajj trips and studying legal courses against violators to prevent a repeat of these unfortunate events in the future.

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa, a member of the task force, stressed that the government would revoke the licenses of any tourism company which promised pilgrims unauthorized pilgrimage arrangements with their managers referred to Public Prosecution.

Article 21 of the Egyptian Hajj Regulation Law stipulates a financial penalty of 1-3 million EGP for any entity found to have organized Hajj trips in violation of legal provisions.

The law doubles the minimum and maximum fine for repeat offenders.

Pilgrims without Hajj permits

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Friday, 680 Egyptians were among the hundreds of pilgrims who died due to the scorching heatwave during the pilgrimage -  almost all of whom had travelled to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj but without proper Hajj permits.

An additional 700 Egyptians are still missing, the WSJ added.

In recent years, the cost of Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam for those who can perform it, skyrocketed after the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

In 2024, the cost of various lottery-based overland Hajj packages ranged from EGP 191,000 to EGP 225,000.

Lottery-based Air travel packages ranged from EGP 226,000 to EGP 450,000.

Meanwhile, individuals who opt to pay their way to perform Hajj, known in Egypt as 'tourist pilgrims', pay much higher market-based prices.

According to Saudi regulations, Hajj hopefuls must obtain a special Hajj visa which costs more than Saudi tourist visas or an Umrah (minor Hajj) visa.

Some Egyptian tourist companies and Hajj trip operators sold Saudi tourist visas and Umrah visas to Egyptian Hajj hopefuls to perform the Hajj in violation of Saudi regulations - thus leaving these individuals in limbo in Mecca and the holy lands amid scorching heat conditions.

According to Saudi official statements, in this Hajj season, the authorities turned 171,000 Hajj hopefuls from various nationalities away because they did not have proper entry permits to Mecca and detained 4,000 individuals who did not have Hajj permits.

Families of missing pilgrims are advised to contact emergency hotlines announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for rapid response:

  • Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah: +966565702002
  • Consular Sector of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 27923050, 27923060, 27942782, 01006638814

* $1 = EGP47.77 according to the Central Bank of Egypt official exchange rate on 13 June 2024.

Search Keywords:
Short link: