Hajj-bound Muslims warned about travel agents

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BIRMINGHAM Muslims planning to make the Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca – are being warned by Trading Standards to be on their guard for unscrupulous tour operators.
Around 50,000 British Muslims make the Hajj every year. Many save for years to make the journey and more than 80 per cent of travellers are aged over 65.

Historically, travellers planning their journey have often been charged for free visas and flight tickets sold at inflated prices.

Trading Standards in Birmingham and the wider Midlands are working with the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) to raise awareness of tour companies that operate unfair or illegal practices.

Councillor Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, said: “Some tour operators target the Muslim community, purporting to specialise in organising Hajj. The majority of them do not have an air tours operators licence and are therefore breaking UK law and not providing legal protection for travellers.

“It is disgraceful that these unscrupulous tour operators are preying on vulnerable people at such an important time in their lives and we will do everything we can to protect these travellers.

“Our advice to anyone contemplating making the Hajj is that there are many legitimate tour operators providing this service, so make sure they are a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). If things do go wrong there are agreed procedures and redress schemes available.”

Khalid Pervez, General Secretary of ABH, added: “Some tour operators sell their packages and then abandon the travellers, leaving them out of pocket and unable to arrange their documentation in time for their Hajj journey.”

The Hajj occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

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