DHAKA, Aug 2, 2017 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said steps have been taken to resolve all complicacy related to visa issuing procedure of hajj pilgrims within next two days.
“The issue related to hire Muallems (guides) has been solved today and we are hopeful within two days the visa issuing procedure will be faster as well,” he said at a press briefing after holding an inter-ministerial meeting at his ministry in wake of sudden crisis in transporting pilgrims.
In last four days, a total of 15 flights, 12 of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and 3 of Saudia Airline were delayed due to lack of passengers as the pilgrims of those flights yet to get visa. The total capacity of those flights was 5,000.
Of the 128,000 intending Hajj pilgrims, the minister said, so far 46,792 pilgrims have obtained visas and of them 29,839 have left for Saudi Arabia.
“Biman will carry 47,761 pilgrims while rest of them will be carried by Saudia Airlines,” he said.
Menon identified numbers of reasons behind the backlogged including, less numbers of available Muallems in Saudi Arabia, extra fees for pilgrims who had already performed hajj in last two years and visa issuing complicacy of Saudi embassy as they introduced e-visa for the first time.
As per information of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), the minister said, the lowest Muallem fee was fixed at 720 riyals, but currently there are scarcity of Muallem of that rate in Saudi Arabia and the Bangladesh hajj agencies had showed reluctant to hire Muallems with 1,500 riyals which guides were demanding.
“We have discussed the issue today, and our hajj agencies have agreed to pay more to hire the Muallems,” the minister said.
As per the rules, Saudi Arabia government does not issue visa unless the Muallems are fixed.
“I hope after hiring the Muallems, the visa issuing procedure will be expedited and we will be able to transport the pilgrims,” he said.
The minister said another problem is that the Saudi government suddenly demanding 2,000 riyals more who are going to perform hajj second time in last two years. The Saudi Arabian embassy is not issuing visas to those who have not deposited that amount and submitted the receipt.
“This additional charge is not only for Bangladeshi pilgrims, it is applicable for all other countries. A negotiation is going on in Saudi Arabia on the issue between the Saudi government and representatives of other countries including Bangladesh,” he said, adding that it is estimated that there are nearly 10,000 pilgrims in such categories.
As the Saudi government introduced e-visa for the first time this year, the new system also slowed down the visa issuing procedure, the minister said.
The minister said he urged HAAB and ATAB to cooperate with Biman and Saudi airlines to send the pilgrims, who have already obtained the visas as soon as possible.
“Biman always keep some extra slots every year so that no pilgrims will be left behind. This year Biman also got some extra slots. On top of that we have already sought more slots to the Saudi authority,” Menon said.
The minister said he already ordered to give priority to the pilgrims to all Saudi Arabia-bound flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines. “If required, we will use diplomatic channel to get more slots for Biman Bangladesh airlines,” he added.
The pre-Hajj flights will continue until Aug 26.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary, Managing Director CEO of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, high officials of Religious Affairs Ministry and representatives of HAAB and ATAB attend the meeting.
“We will operate three hajj flights today while delayed one flight for 48 hours. Till now no hajj fight is cancelled for tomorrow,” Biman Managing Director and CEO A M Mosaddique Ahmed told BSS.
“We have all preparation to operate our hajj flights. Now we just waiting for the pilgrims,” he added.