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Stranded in Saudi Arabia

2008-01-17 13:23:31
This article has been read 920 times.

Government has unfolded an arrangement to evacuate over 1000 stranded Ghanaian pilgrims from the port city of Jeddah and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims who had performed their annual Islamic pilgrimage have been disappointed by the Alama Travel and Tour Company which won the nod of the Interim Hajj Management Council to airlift Ghanaian pilgrims to and from the Saudi Arabian kingdom.

Some of them were holed up at the airport for the past two days beyond the allowed six hours until they were given the sack by the airport authorities. On Wednesday, a busload of Hajj Council officials were denied entry into the airport after their arrival at the place from Medina. The reason was that their compatriots' flight had not materialised. Meanwhile hundreds of others who were expected to be moved to Jeddah from Medina where the city is experiencing an inclement weather condition have had to endure the cold for another night, not knowing when they would leave the city.

In an interview with Daily Guide, Rashid Bawa, Ghana's Envoy in the kingdom disclosed that government has taken control of the situation and is immediately evacuating the stranded Ghanaian nationals. The visas given them by the Saudi embassy expires on 18th January, 2008. Most of the pilgrims are complaining of having no money to feed on and longing to get back home, and the Ambassador has assured them that government would do all that it can to rescue them.

The just ended Hajj has witnessed motley of problems from the airlift to the kingdom and return. It appears the return trip is facing more hiccups than the departure. This year, the Ghanaian team has recorded more deaths than last year with most of the causes, according to the medical team, being chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and others. At the time of filing this report, boarding passes were being prepared by the Bin Sheikh group for the evacuation to commence.

President John Agyekum Kufuor, it would be recalled, had ordered the withdrawal of funds from the consolidated fund for the airlifting of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in the heat of the confusion surrounding the airlift a few weeks ago. One trip to and fro was achieved through the intervention. Over one million dollars has so far been dispensed by the government intervention.Many have called for a government takeover of the Hajj management because of the perennial problems which visit it.

Many of the stranded pilgrims have expressed disappointment in the performance of the Hajj Council which has in turn blamed the situation on the Saudi registered brokerage.

Even with the initial government intervention, Chairman of the Hajj Council, Ustaz Seidu Ahmed said he was not briefed about the development, saying he expected the ambassador to have done so.Ironically, the flight he boarded to Saudi Arabia was the government provided one.

The Alama group has reneged on the various dates it promised to airlift pilgrims back home and it is becoming difficult for the stranded Ghanaians to take their word.One Hajj Council official was overheard telling an Alama operations official that the company could no longer enjoy the cover they had enjoyed all along. With the government intervention, the remaining pilgrims left behind after the few flights made by the Alama group would soon return.

The stranded who were bused away from the airport are supposed to be housed in a hotel at the expense of theAlama Travel and Tours Company. The buses spent a considerable time trying to locate the hotel the company had directed them to.In a few hours, some 300 or so pilgrims would head for the airport to avail themselves of the government largesse even though the Alama group has promised to provide a Boeing 747 aircraft. The government intervention has met with an expected excitement among the distressed pilgrims.

Earlier, the Alama group had announced that they would airlift two batches of pilgrims but this turned out to be untrue, leaving the Ghanaians to suffer various forms of inconveniences.

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