Tunisian President Sacks Religious Affairs Minister After 49 Pilgrims Died In Hajj

Tunisian President, Kais Saied, has sacked the minister of religious affairs in the country after 49 Tunisians died in this year’s hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The death toll has risen to 1126, more than half of them from Egypt according to AFP tally on Friday, compiling official statements and reports from diplomats involved in the response.

The President “decided to end the duties of Ibrahim Chaibi, the minister of religious affairs,” a statement by the Presidency who posted on Facebook said without giving any further details. 

On Tuesday, the Tunisian foreign ministry reported the death of 35 Tunisian pilgrims, but the number has risen to 49 so far, according to Tunisian media.

The ministry didn’t specify whether the deaths were related to high temperatures, adding that most of the dead had travelled to Saudi Arabia with tourist visas and outside of the Saudi government’s official pilgrimage programme.

Each year, official permits are allocated to countries through a quota system and distributed to individuals via a lottery.

Even for those who can obtain them, the steep costs can make the irregular route – which costs thousands of dollars less – more attractive.

That has been especially true since 2019 when Saudi Arabia began issuing general tourist visas, making it easier to travel to the Gulf kingdom.

Deaths during the pilgrimage have also been confirmed by Malaysia, India, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, Sudan and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

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