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6 I LOCAL & NATIONAL NEWS Passion Islam I September 2008
Warning over Hajj
pilgrimage rip-offs
agents, community groups and consumer Dr Nadim Nayyar, from Liversedge in
organisations last month, and told them West Yorkshire, booked last year through
that the government aimed to ‘help a Luton-based firm, Go4 Hajj. His party
pilgrims avoid booking with rogue travel of nine paid for a luxury package costing
agents, and to get redress when they fall £32,000. Just 48 hours before they
foul of those who break the law’. were due to depart, Nayyar discovered
The Department for Business, their Saudi Arabian visas had not been
The government has warned British
Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is obtained by the company. ‘Our Hajj was
Muslims embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage
planning a poster campaign in community over. I felt totally devastated,’ he said.
to Makkah in Saudi Arabia this year to be
centres and mosques aimed at improving ‘The pre-Hajj seminar, where we were
on their guard against scams and rip-offs.
awareness of consumer rights, and supposed to meet other travellers, kept on
Up to 50,000 Britons make the pilgrimage
stressing the need to check that a tour getting delayed. Then we found that our
each year, but ministers have become
operator to December’s Hajj holds an Air flights had been altered from scheduled to
concerned with the growing problem of
Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol), that chartered, changing in Bahrain. Then we
unscrupulous travel agents cashing in on
any company booked with is a member of found out they couldn’t get the five-star
religious devotion.
a trade organisation such as Abta and to hotels they had promised, and we were
Hotel and flight deals can cost more
keep all documents such as contracts and being downgraded.’
than £3,000, and every year hundreds fall
invoices in case of later problems. After learning that their trip was
victim to a variety of scams: paying for a
One of the groups that flagged up the cancelled, Nayyar and 60 other pilgrims
five-star hotel near the Masjid al-Haram
problem, the Association of British Hujjaj, who had been let down were told the
(the mosque that is a focal point of the
welcomed the move, saying the ‘vast firm had no assets left to refund them,
event), but getting a tiny room far from the
majority’ of Hajj travel operators were one- although he eventually recovered his
centre of Makkah; visas and flight tickets
man operations and ‘simply opportunists money through Go4 Hajj’s Atol cover.
not arriving; and in extreme cases agents
who are looking for monetary gain by ‘This is not just a package holiday, but
disappearing with their money.
taking advantage of the vulnerable’. Last an obligatory religious visit, so people tend
Consumer affairs minister Gareth
year, it handed a petition signed by 5,000 to be far too trusting,’ said Nayyar. ‘I think
Thomas convened a conference of travel
Hajj travellers to the government. that’s where we fell down.’ - Guardian
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