The Ministry of Lands and Religious Affairs and the National Hajj Commission have announced plans to investigate the fate of 105 prospective Gambian pilgrims stranded in Banjul because they were not issued visas.
The pilgrims said they bought their tickets from a certain Hulool Umrah & Hajj – Gambia. The first batch of 78 was booked to travel last Friday through Royal Air Maroc, but their visas never came.
Reacting to the issue in a statement shared with The Standard yesterday, the ministry said: “The general public is hereby assured that the ministry of lands, regional government, and religious affairs and the National Hajj Commission will liaise with relevant stakeholders to investigate this matter, and appropriate actions will be taken against anyone found wanting.”
The ministry added: “It is unfortunate that they had taken a significant amount of money from innocent Gambians with a promise of securing them a hajj visa as well as transporting them for hajj this year. The ministry and Hajj Commission wish to make it clear that the agency is not an official licensed operator for this year’s hajj and is not operating within the Gambia’s 2023 hajj quota of 2000 pilgrims.”
The ministry disclosed that Crossbreed Holding Company, Alhuda Travel, Continental Travel, Algasimou Travel Agency, Amana Travel, Banjul Travel Agency, Tivaouane Travel And Tours, Orbit Travel Agency, Maya Global Travel, Travel Express Agency, Alfaz Travel Agency, and Gambia International Airline (GIA) are the 12 agencies officially licensed as operators for this year’s hajj.
“Anyone who has made payment for this year’s hajj to any agency other than the 12 agencies listed herein is simply not within the 2000 official pilgrim quota allocated to The Gambia by Saudi Arabia under the supervision of the ministry of lands, regional government, and religious affairs and the National Hajj Commission,” it added.
The ministry also announced the arrival of all the official 2000 pilgrims for Gambia’s 2023 hajj quota, who have all obtained their hajj visas and have all successfully travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.