Saudi Arabia forms committee to investigate ‘inhumane’ treatment of Egyptian pilgrims

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Saudi authorities formed a committee this week to investigate the crisis at the Jeddah which left more than 4,500 Egyptian pilgrims stranded for three days in cramped conditions earlier this month.

Egyptians were travelling home from an Islamic pilgrimage but were trapped at the airport after their flights had either been cancelled or delayed. They were forced to camp out in a small waiting hall.

The governor of the Makkah province, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, gave the committee, representing five different government agencies, one week to submit a report on the issue.

“The number of pilgrims is increasing yearly, which requires raising the level of service, and excellent coordination between all entities related to their service,” the al-Watan newspaper quoted him as saying.

The Saudi ambassador to Egypt had said earlier this month that an investigation would look into the causes that made it problematic for Egyptians to return home.

Pilgrims had complained that those among them who suffered from health problems were not transported to a hospital, while one passenger even filed a police report against Saudi Air, accusing the airline of deliberately causing him to miss his flight. In addition, some pilgrims complained about “inhumane treatment” they said they received from workers at the airport, the Egyptian news website Bikya Masr reported.

Responding to the allegations, officials from the Saudi Aviation group accused some Egyptians of being late to their flights and carrying excess weight, which led to “confusion in the flights schedule.”

According to the Okaz Saudi newspaper, the committee is expected to fine the airlines for violating Saudi Arabia’s official passengers’ bill of rights, which obliges airlines to offer accommodation and basic needs in case of delays.

The committee could also award 300 Saudi riyals (US$79) as compensation to each passenger, Ahram Online reported.

The Saudi committee’s final report is pending.