July 2, 2022

Saudi Arabia has lifted its nine-month ban on Umrah visas for Bangladeshis after the Asian nation dealt with agencies using Umrah trips to traffic people into the Kingdom. Riyadh informed Dhaka of its decision on Dec. 14 in a letter.

The ban was instituted in March after Bangladesh’s Religious Affairs Minister Matior Rahman confirmed that 11,485 Bangladeshi Umrah pilgrims did not return home in 2014.

Following this, Riyadh informed Dhaka that the Kingdom would not issue any Umrah visa until the visa overstayers returned home and action was taken against the agencies responsible.

A total of 204 agencies out of 300 faced human trafficking accusations.

The Bangladeshi government fined, seized the deposits, and canceled the licenses of 69 travel agencies on Nov. 18 after they were found guilty of smuggling people into the Kingdom using Umrah visas. Another 26 agencies were also fined.

Umrah visas are issued only for 14 to 28 days and do not require any police verification or ministry certification, leaving scope for unscrupulous local and Umrah agencies to take advantage of the scheme.

A senior official from the Bangladeshi mission here revealed that about 60,000 pilgrims come for Umrah every year.

He said the government has published a list of 70 agencies with no allegations to conduct Umrah travels next year.

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