Visa delays hit Umrah

2012-02-04 00:00

HUNDREDS of South African Muslims intending to travel to Mecca on pilgrimage this weekend stand to lose thousands of rands after the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia failed to issue their visas on time.

Yesterday evening Weekend Witness spoke to several travel agents and their clients, who didn’t want to be named because they feared reprisals by the embassy.

A Durban-based agent said he was still waiting for the passports of 50 of his clients — 22 of whom were due to depart the country last night — to arrive at King Shaka International Airport.

“The passports were sent to the embassy in Pretoria on Monday because it was closed for renovations last week. We were told to return to collect them the next day, and since then we’ve been given visas for parents, but not their children, or for children but not their parents, and for women, but not their husbands, and vice versa,” he said.

“When you phone them they say they’ll be issuing the visas the next day, but when my guys go there they are sent away empty-handed.”

The agent said that around 2 000 South Africans had intended to undertake the pilgrimage this month. Many were taking advantage of a non-refundable Emirates airline special of just under R4 000 for a return fare to Saudi Arabia.

“Their accommodation is also pre-booked and non-refundable. If I was them I’d be gutted. Some of them understand our predicament, and others don’t and blame us. So there is a lot of pressure all round.”

The agent also questioned the embassy’s system of processing visas. “If you go to any other embassy you’re given a receipt and told when to return. This is not the case with them.”

Two Gauteng-based travel agents said they were experiencing similar problems. “We have about 20 passengers whose passports have not been returned,” said one. “Most of our clients are very poor, and decided to go because of the Emirates special. We are in a heavy dilemma.”

One agent said a terminally ill man due to travel on an Emirates flight tonight was still waiting for his passport, which was sent to the embassy on Monday. His nephew said he was disappointed as he had wanted to spend his time in Mecca praying for his health.

A source who works in the visa section said the embassy had a certain number of employees and “couldn’t do everything at once”. “The embassy deals with agents, and if they submit 2 000 passports, we can only deal with 1 000 at a time.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.