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The Interior Ministry is preventing hundreds of Christian pilgrims from the Ivory Coast from reaching Israel, fearing they might stay in the country as illegal migrants, Haaretz learned.

The organizers of the pilgrimages are having difficulties obtaining visas for the groups, set to embark next week. At this point, four flights are scheduled between the two countries over the course of every two weeks. The ministry told Haaretz it didn't refuse entry to pilgrims, but that the matter was under consideration, with a decision expected as early as today. Pilgrimages comprise a large element tourism here. In March, Israir flew 15,000 Nigerian pilgrims on 60 flights.