HomeWorld NewsHajj deaths shed light on underworld of illegal tour operators - vopbuzz

Hajj deaths shed light on underworld of illegal tour operators – vopbuzz

Hajj deaths shed light on underworld of illegal tour operators.cms

CAIRO: More than 1,300 killed during Islamic pilgrimage Saudi Arabia The vast majority of them do not have permits, the Saudi government said this month. Many walked for miles in scorching heat of up to 51.8 degrees Celsius after paying thousands of dollars to illegal tour operators.
By AP’s count, 660 of the dead were Egyptian, 165 from Indonesia, 98 from India and dozens more from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia.Two US citizens also died.
While authorized pilgrims travel around Mecca in air-conditioned buses and rest in air-conditioned tents, unregistered pilgrims are often exposed to the weather.
On Sunday, Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel said 83% of the 1,301 reported deaths were pilgrims without permits.
It is not uncommon for pilgrims, about 2 million of whom attend each year, to die from heat stress, disease or chronic illness. But since Saudi Arabia does not regularly report these statistics, it is unclear whether this year’s death toll is higher than usual.
But because many of those killed did not have permits, this year’s death toll has exposed an underworld of illegal tour operators and smugglers who profit from Muslims desperate to make the journey. An estimated 400,000 undocumented people attempted the hajj this year, a senior Saudi official told AFP.
Hajj tour operators, pilgrims and relatives of the dead spoke of easily exploited loopholes that allowed people to travel to the kingdom on tourist or visitor visas before the hajj. When they arrived, they said, they found illegal brokers and traffickers who offered their services, took their money and sometimes left them to fend for themselves.
The number of unregistered pilgrims appears to have increased this year due to increasing economic desperation in countries such as Egypt and Jordan. An official pilgrimage package can cost more than $5,000 or $10,000, depending on the pilgrim’s country of origin; This is well beyond the means of many people.
One of the unregistered pilgrims who died was Safaa al-Tawab from Luxor, Egypt. Al-Tawab, 55, was unable to obtain a pilgrimage permit but found an Egyptian tour company that would take him for about $3,000, his brother Ahmed said. After arriving, he told relatives that he was placed in inadequate accommodation and was prevented from leaving. His brother said he found himself walking for miles in the heat, even though the tour operator promised air-conditioned buses. He died in the middle of the pilgrimage, but when his brother contacted a representative of the tour company, he assured him that he was okay and then turned off his phone. The Hajj is a physically demanding event even for the young and fit, and many pilgrims are elderly or ill by the time they are able to undertake the journey. Some believe that the Hajj may be their last act of worship and that dying in Mecca will bring great blessings.
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