Call to end abuse of British Muslim Hajj travelers

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A BIRMINGHAM charity has called for the British government to do more to protect British Muslims who are charged extortionate rates to Saudi Arabia to perform the holy Hajj and Umrah rituals.

The Association of British Hujjaj UK (ABH) say thousands of British Muslims are exploited by “unscrupulous” tour operators and travel agents who charge inflated rates for the holy pilgrimages.

The charity has launched a petition urging the British government to take action against those who take advantage of Muslim pilgrims.

Health Minister Lord Phillips was joined by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Steve McCabe MP, ABH members and a number of community leaders to launch the petition at a special event last week.

Khalid Pervez, General Secretary of the charity said many travelers experienced “extreme hardship” and “mental anguish” at the hands of some travel operators.

“It is scandalous that some tour operators sell their travel package and then become elusive and abandon the travelers, leaving them out of pocket and unable to arrange their documentation in time for their Hajj journey”, Mr Pervez said.

“Some of the tour operators exploited those affected Hajj pilgrims by charging extortionate prices for Hajj visas that were meant to be free of cost. Also, some travel agents sold travel tickets to Saudi Arabia at premium prices and in some instances nearly doubled the cost.

“It is an insult to injury that a large number of tour operators do not provide the quality services such as accommodation, transport and other amenities during the Hajj period as promised by them in UK.”

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham described guilty travel operators as “criminals” and said they should be “prosecuted in this country and banned from Saudi Arabia.

Addressing those at the event, Lord Phillip said: “I was deeply concerned to hear about the reports of the unscrupulous travel agents and tour operators, I find that totally unacceptable. I can promise to ensure that these matters are discussed with my colleagues in the foreign office and the DTI.”

And Birmingham MP Steve McCabe assured the community that: “Later this year we will be bringing forward a consumer protection and an estate agent regulation bill and that we should now be looking from your experiences, if there is any scope within that legislation to address some of the problems that people have encountered”.

Those wishing to sign to petition can do so online at the ABH website www.abhuk.com

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