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450 Travel Agents Rounded Up As Egypt Cracks Down On Hajj Brokers

Egyptian authorities have arrested 450 travel brokers in connection to deaths among unregistered pilgrims in the recent Hajj pilgrimage season in Saudi Arabia, according to an Egyptian media report.

News portal Cairo24 quoted a source at the Egyptian Travel Agents’ Association as saying that more suspected brokers, who are still abroad, will be arrested upon their return to Egypt. “There is a complete list naming the Hajj brokers who are currently outside the country. They are arrested one after the other upon their arrival at the Egyptian airports,” the unnamed source added.

They have been identified through barcodes previously issued by them to the unregistered pilgrims, according to the source. There was no immediate official confirmation in Cairo.

Earlier this week, the Egyptian government said it would strip 16 travel agencies of their licences for involvement in arranging illegal trips for unregistered pilgrims after the reported deaths of hundreds of them in the Hajj due to scorching heat.

The government said it is making efforts to determine the numbers of Egyptian unregistered pilgrims as there are no data available on them. A government report has attributed high deaths among the Egyptian unregistered pilgrims to illegal trips organised by some travel agencies using visit visas for Hajj hopefuls.

Saudi Arabia Sunday announced that 1,301 pilgrims, 83% of them illegals, died, after trekking for long distances under the baking sun.

Saudi authorities have repeatedly said that a Hajj visa is mandatory to perform the annual pilgrimage that coincided this year with extreme heat, and cracked down on fake tours on its soil. Saudi authorities also said that a visit visa does not quality its holder to perform Hajj and barred many such visitors from entering Mecca and nearby sites where the pilgrimage rites take place.

A visit visa-based pilgrimage journey costs less than an official trip for Hajj, which is an obligatory Islamic duty.

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Gulf News

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