6 scandals and terrible experiences that have rocked Hajj pilgrims in Ghana

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims but scores of prospective pilgrims have had to go through some difficulties. Pulse.com.gh has outlined some of them.

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The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime.

But scores of prospective pilgrims have had to go through some difficulties over the years before embarking on the journey.

Here are some of them:

Delay in issuance of visas

Prospective pilgrims are often not able to acquire visas on time for the trip. The Pilgrims Affairs Office Ghana (PAOG) explained that this can be attributed to delayed payment by individuals. There are instances where prospective pilgrims hand money over to agents at a time the quota was exhausted, and this makes it practically impossible to obtain visas much less, travel.

Also, in 2015, about 300 prospective pilgrims did not make it to the Hajj due to some visa challenges.

Passport delays

Scores of prospective pilgrims have over the years been faced with difficulties with their passports. Their passports sometimes take longer than expected, creating anxiety. Many of the prospective pilgrims have often been left stranded for days at the Hajj village in Accra over this challenge.

Airport stress

Pilgrims who wanted to embark on Hajj were until September 2014, spending so many nights under impoverished conditions at the airport following lack of temporary housing facilities for them while they wait to be airlifted. The John Mahama-led administration subsequently intervened and set up what is described as the Hajj village to shelter the prospective pilgrims.

Transportation

Issues with transportation have almost become an annual ritual and this year was no different. The over 500 pilgrims, who were due for Mecca were left stranded and frustrated at the Tamale Sports Stadium after the plane that was to airlift them developed a fault.

Vice President Dr Mahamadu and the Hajj board worked around the clock and ensured that another plane was made available for the prospective pilgrims.

The situation is very worrying, as in the past there have been reports of only two planes having to run a shuttle in transporting over 5000 prospective pilgrims. There is also the issue of a backlog of pilgrims from previous years which exerts pressure on quotas for the following years. The result is that some prospective pilgrims who are not unfortunate may have to be removed from the holy trip at the last minute.

Pilgrims repatriated

About thirty-nine female pilgrims from Ghana were in August 2016, repatriated from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A statement from the Pilgrims office said those repatriated comprised of 9 minors and 30 others categorised as being “without guardians because they are less than 40 years.” The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requires that an adult male relative accompany all ladies less than 40 years old.

Pilgrims refusing to return home

There have been reports that some Ghanaian Muslims claim embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca and use that as an opportunity to start a new life in the Middle East as part of what they describe as attempts to leave the economic hardships in Ghana. In 2015, reports from Saudi Arabia revealed that some Ghanaian Muslims who went to the Mecca fled to Kuwait and other  Middle Eastern countries after the holy rituals.

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