The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has urged the government of Bangladesh to take actions including imposition of a ban on at least 50 Hajj and travel agencies that arrange 'Umrah Hajj' for devotees from Bangladesh.
The KSA accused the agencies of their involvement in human trafficking in the name of arrangement for Umrah Hajj.
The Saudi Hajj Ministry recently wrote to the Bangladeshi Hajj Councillor office in Saudi Arabia to take punitive actions against the agencies claiming that around 4,000 Bangladeshi devotees did not return after performing Umra Hajj in the KSA in last four months.
Bangladesh's Hajj Councillor Md. Asaduzzaman in Saudi Arabia has forwarded the letter to the Religious Affairs Ministry recently with its own observations.
He also attached a list of 50 Hajj and travel agencies that includes the name of the HAAB President Ibrahim Bahar and his son-in-law, along with the forwarded letter.
The Ministry has already received the letter from the Hajj Councillor and started mulling necessary steps against the agencies.
According to the Ministry sources, the country has prepared another list of more than 40 agencies and blacklisted those. The list would also be given to the ministry soon. The government will also take actions against those agencies.
The ministry officials said that the Saudi authorities are putting pressure on the government to take Bangladeshi devotees, who are staying illegally, back soon.
Ministry's Deputy Secretary Faizur Rahman Faruqui of Hajj wing told the Daily Observer on Sunday they had received the letter from the Hajj Councillor's office. The ministry has already started its preparations to take necessary steps against the agencies.
He also said the ministry on Thursday requested the Saudi authority to send a detailed list of the fugitive devotees for taking actions against the agencies. It also requested them to take actions against their agencies for assisting Bangladeshi agencies to commit such offenses.
According to the letter, the Saudi Hajj Ministry claimed that around 4,000 Bangladeshis went to the KSA for performing Umrah Hajj and did not return in last four months.
Learning the matter, the Saudi Hajj Ministry stopped issuing Umrah visa for Bangladeshi devotees only four months after the Umrah visa was introduced. It is damaging the image of the country abroad, the Hajj councillor said.
He also said that due to the decision of the KSA, other Hajj and travel agencies that are sending Umrah devotees legally are being victimised. They are losing financially.
The letter also said if the government does not take actions against the agencies involved in human trafficking, the country will not issue Umrah visa for Bangladesh in future. The Bangladeshi devotees will not be allowed to perform Umrah due to the decision.
It would be easy for the government to find out the Bangladeshi devotees that fled away after entering Saudi Arabia, if the agency owners are pressurised to bring them back.
Among the agencies, according to the list of KSA- Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh's (HAAB) President Ibrahim Bahar's Megatop Travel International, Vice President Md. Helal's Muna Travels and Tours, VP Farid Ahmed Majumder's Golden Bengal Tours and Travels and Joint Secretary Mozammel Hossain Kamal's Hasim Air International are found guilty of human trafficking.
HAAB executive member Khadem Dulal's Khadem Air Services, Abu Bakar Siddiqui's Al Noor International, Abdul Malek's Sabuj Bangla International, HAAB's Chittagong Zonal VP Md. Ilias's Golden Bengal Travels and Tours and Bahar's son-in- law and HAAB's former central treasurer Mahbub Mannan's Times Aviation are also accused of involvement in such offenses.
The Comilla Travels, Kaniz Travels, Jeminy Travels, Rawshan Travels, Sharif Air Services, Fly Homes, Hasim Overseas, Three-Star Travels, Anzam Air Travels, Eastern Travels, Farhan Aviation Service, Hasim Air International, KSP Travels, Lord Travels, Medina Air Travels, Mims Travels and Tours, Rajshahi Travels and Tours, Gulf Travels and Tours, Alhaj Travels Trade, Royal Air Services System, Air Express, Avia Overseas, Bangladesh Overseas Services, Concord International, Labbayik Overseas, MMR Aviation, MP Travels, Maruf Travels, Parabat Travels and Tours, Rabbani Overseas, United Stars Tours, Wings Travels and Tours, Wasis Air Services, City Neon Travels, Mallick Travels, Admire Air Travels, Easy-Way Travels, Purple Aviation System, Masud Travels, Topcon Overseas and Ever-Green Travels were also found guilty of its involvement with human trafficking.
It also said the Saudi government has suspended operation of several Saudi agencies due to the same reason. Unless the agencies take illegal devotees back, the authority will not allow them to operate further.
The Saudi agencies are- Dallah General Service, Najd Group, Shaghadif Transport, Al-Muslai for Umrah Est., Motlaq Al Harbi Joint Liability, Fayez Trading and Services and Shaaier Tours Development Incorporate.