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  1. ABSTRACT We present a search for high-energy γ-ray emission from 566 Active Galactic Nuclei at redshift z > 0.2, from the 2WHSP catalogue of high-synchrotron peaked BL Lac objects with 8 yr of Fermi-LAT data. We focus on a redshift range where electromagnetic cascade emission induced by ultra-high-energy cosmic rays can be distinguished from leptonic emission based on the spectral properties of the sources. Our analysis leads to the detection of 160 sources above ≈5σ (TS ≥25) in the 1–300 GeV energy range. By discriminating significant sources based on their γ-ray fluxes, variability properties, and photon index in the Fermi-LAT energy range, and modelling the expected hadronic signal in the TeV regime, we select a list of promising sources as potential candidate ultra-high-energy cosmic ray emitters for follow-up observations by Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes.