Umrah e-Visas Temporarily Banned For Egyptian Pilgrims

Riyadh has decided to temporarily halt the issuance of B2C Umrah e-visas in Egypt. This decision comes just days after the unfortunate incident where more than 1,300 pilgrims lost their lives during Hajj due to the scorching heat.
egyptian hajj pilgrims
Photo: FILE

Following the tragic loss of over 1,300 lives during Hajj due to extreme heat, Saudi Arabia has taken the decision to suspend B2C e-visas for Egyptians wishing to undertake the pilgrimage of Umrah.

Umrah pilgrims can travel on their own without the need for a tour operator through the B2C platform.

The fatalities marked the most severe Hajj catastrophe caused by extreme heat in four decades, with temperatures soaring to 51.8C.

Saudi officials reported that 83% of the deceased individuals were not authorized to participate in Hajj, leading them to walk long distances under the scorching sun without proper protection.

A minimum of 658 individuals from Egypt lost their lives, with 630 of them being unregistered pilgrims, as reported by an Egyptian diplomat referenced by BBC.

Basil al-Sisi, a representative of the Egyptian Travel Agents’ Association, declared during the weekend that a specific type of Umrah visa, which allows for a smaller pilgrimage to be undertaken at any point in the year, has been temporarily halted.

Sisi informed Al-Masry al-Youm that the B2C visa, which was previously available for Egyptians to book packages directly through Saudi Arabia’s online Umrah portal, has been temporarily halted.

He clarified that Egyptians are still able to perform Umrah by booking through an authorized travel agency in Egypt.

Sisi stated that the halt was a result of the deaths during Hajj this month.

He stated that the B2C visa permits individuals to enter the system, acquire the visa, and travel independently, which became unacceptable following the Hajj crisis.

Earlier this week, Sisi mentioned that the suspension of B2C Umrah visas is only temporary.

After the Hajj fatalities, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly declared that 16 tourism companies had their permits revoked for supposedly allowing individuals to participate in Hajj through unauthorized means.

Human Rights Watch

Saudi authorities were reminded by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday of their responsibility to safeguard individuals from scorching temperatures.

HRW stated that in addition to the Hajj, it is crucial to enforce heat protection measures in order to enhance the safety and well-being of individuals at risk. This becomes even more urgent considering Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans outlined in Vision 2030, which aim to raise the annual number of religious pilgrims from 8 million to 30 million.

Arresting The Critics

Middle East Eye reported on Tuesday that an Egyptian man was apprehended by Saudi authorities following his online video during Hajj, where he voiced his concerns about the alleged negligence that resulted in the unfortunate deaths of numerous Egyptian pilgrims.

Islam Osama Sobhi, aged 27, is under arrest in Taif, as per his father’s online video. The Egyptian consulate in Jeddah transferred him to the Saudi security authorities for questioning.

Inadequate Number of Ambulances During Hajj 2024

Earlier this week, MEE stated that both registered and unregistered pilgrims faced insufficient facilities during Hajj, such as being denied access to buses and ambulances.

A source within the Saudi security forces informed MEE that the true number of deaths this year could be three to four times greater than what has been reported. They also mentioned that no official statement would be released regarding these figures unless the deaths were a result of an accident.

Saudi authorities reported that this year, approximately 1.8 million pilgrims participated in Hajj, with 1.6 million of them traveling from overseas.

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