Egypt to prosecute travel agents for ‘fraudulent’ Hajj trips

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Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Saturday ordered 16 tourism companies stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Mecca, the cabinet said.

The order came after various countries reported more than 1,100 deaths, many attributed to high heat, during this year’s Hajj.

Arab diplomats told AFP earlier this week that Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths, 630 of them unregistered pilgrims.

“The prime minister has ordered the licenses of these companies to be revoked, their managers to be referred to the public prosecutor and the imposition of a fine to benefit the families of the pilgrims who died because of them,” the Egyptian cabinet said in a statement.

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It said the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies which “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Mecca” via official channels.

Hajj permits are allocated to countries on a quota system and distributed to individuals via a lottery.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims with the means must complete it at least once in their lives.

Saudi officials had earlier said 1.8 million pilgrims took part this year, a similar total to last year, and that 1.6 million came from abroad.

The timing of the Hajj is determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, shifting forward each year in the Gregorian calendar.
For the past several years the mainly outdoor rituals have fallen during the sweltering Saudi summer.

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