No hajj for 200 pilgrims

Seventy-five-year-old Montaz Hossain, left, from Lalmonirhat, has been at Ashkona Hajj camp in the capital since Friday. A Hajj agency cheated him and nine others of their money having promised them visas and air tickets. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Cheated by hajj agencies, they now wait for govt action

Belal Hossain Biplob

Dreams of over 200 pilgrims to perform holy hajj have been shattered as 17 hajj agencies deceived them by not arranging their visas and air tickets.

The cheated hajj aspirants are now wandering in and around Ashkona Hajj Camp for the last few days hoping that the government will take measures to send them to perform the holy rituals.

Hajj officials said the victims have no chance to perform hajj this year as the Saudi Embassy has already stopped issuing visas for pilgrims and the last flight with pilgrims departs today.

“We are visiting the camp for the last four days with a flicker of hope. We are passing sleepless nights,” said Eman Ali Sardar, one of the victims hailing from Pabna.

He said they are nine in the group and all are cheated by Hajj agency Al-Nayeem International which took Tk 2.5 lakh on an average from each of them.

“I sold a piece of land and arranged money to perform hajj, but my hopes are now crushed,” said septuagenarian Abu Bakar Siddique, another victim.

They said they came to hajj camp last Friday being informed by their hajj agent that they would fly on that night. But none came to bring them from the camp to the airport, they added.

Eman said a staff of Al-Nayeem received the call after they repeatedly tried to reach him, and demanded more money for arranging tickets. “We sent Tk 2.19 lakh to the agency through Mu’allim, but to no avail,” he added. Some other victims from other groups also shared the same experience of being cheated.

Meanwhile, 480 others will also not be able to perform hajj as they did not get clearance from the immigration police on various grounds.

“With government assistance, we are arranging air tickets for those cheated pilgrims who have visas,” said Nasir Uddin Ahmed, deputy secretary of Religious Affairs Ministry, adding that they have already sent 73 such pilgrims.

However, Officer-in-Charge of Khilkhet Police Station Nazrul Islam yesterday said police have arrested the manager of Al Nayeem agency on Sunday and seized 65 passports.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Assaduzzaman, Bangladesh hajj counsellor in Jeddah told The Daily Star over the phone on Sunday that they have received allegations from over 100 pilgrims that several hajj agencies are not arranging proper accommodation and food for them.

He said they will send reports on the allegations against the agencies to the ministry after completion of the hajj.

Out of 98,757 pilgrims, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has successfully completed flying 49,378 hajj pilgrims till Sunday, confirmed the hajj counsellor. Saudi Arabian Airlines will carry the rest.

Around 95,000 pilgrims went to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj till yesterday. There are around 2,000 pilgrims still staying in the hajj camp and Saudi Airlines will carry them today.

Biman will operate its post-hajj return flights from October 8 to November 8, while Saudi Airlines will operate return flights from October 9 to November 17.