Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (Haab) has blamed the hajj office in Ashkona camp for the delay in processing visas for pilgrims intending to visit Mecca at the end of this month.
Haab Secretary General Shahadat Hossain Taslim told the Dhaka Tribune that the office in Ashkona Hajj camp had not been not cooperating properly with his association.
“Most of the employees engaged with passport verification process show up at work after 11am. As a result, the passports are forwarded to the Saudi Embassy late,” he said.
Taslim said the hajj agencies will file a complaint to the Religious Affairs secretary if the situation does not change. For its part, the hajj office in Ashkona camp denied the allegation of noncooperation.
Haab’s outburst follows a statement given on Wednesday by Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, who said over 40,000 pilgrims would be unable to perform hajj this year due to the complexities in visa processing.
The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Dhaka has since sped up the visa process to ease the hassles of Bangladeshis preparing to make the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest city.
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Biman Bangladesh Airlines also began operating regular flights from last Friday to facilitate the smooth transportation of the pilgrims. In the last few days, however, the national flag carrier was forced to cancel 16 flights after failing to get the stipulated hajj pilgrims on board in time.
Biman has been given 144 slots to carry 63,599 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year but has sought more to overcome the backlog. The request is likely to be approved next week.
Minister Menon has already announced that all Saudi-bound flights will be declared ‘hajj flights’ to help sort out the slot cancellation issue.
The crisis developed after the Saudi Arabian government imposed an additional fee of 2,000 Riyals (Tk44,000) on pilgrims who have already performed hajj in 2015 and 2016. The Saudi government also hiked Moallem (hajj guide) fee at the last moment.