PRESS RELEASE: Hajj 2020 Advice for Muslims booking trips to Mecca
- With the current Coronavirus (COVID19) Pandemic and Saudi Arabia suspending the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah, concerns over the main pilgrimage of Hajj 2020 looms as over 25,000 British Muslims will be booking trips to Mecca over the coming months to perform Hajj in July.
- The public are urged to check that their travel company is ATOL protected and watch out for Coronavirus Fraud and Scam
CBHUK (The Council of British Hajjis) in partnership with the British Consulate General Jeddah, City of London Police, Birmingham Trading Standards and the Civil Aviation Authority are advising people booking trips to Mecca to perform Hajj this year to follow the advice from the Saudi Authorities and hold off from entering in to contracts with Hajj tour operators due to the uncertainty over the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Up to 25,000 British Muslims will be looking to book trips to Mecca over the coming months to perform Hajj in July.
Yasmin Qureshi MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group said:
“Many thousands of British Muslims would have saved a lot of hard earnt money to undertake the once in a lifetime Journey of Hajj, and will be anxious as to whether or not Hajj will be taking place or not. It is important that they follow the advice from the Saudi Authorities who have asked people to put on hold their Hajj plans until there is a clear picture with the Conronavirus pandemic.
I am grateful to the Hajj Awareness Campaign Partners who are working hard to assist and guide people during this period of uncertainty”.
Seif Usher, Consul General, British Consulate General Jeddah said:
“The FCO is currently advising British nationals against all non-essential travel worldwide for an indefinite period. British nationals should wait and monitor announcements from the Saudi authorities before planning Hajj and Umrah”.
Rashid Mogradia, founder and CEO of CBHUK said:
“Due to the current COVID Pandemic, the FCO are advising indefinitely against all but essential travel and there seems to a lot of uncertainty over whether or not Hajj will take place this year. The Saudi Authorities are taking the health and wellbeing of Muslims from all over the world wanting to undertake the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage seriously by suspending the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah, and advising people to defer making Hajj bookings until there is a clear picture on the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID19).
“Those with existing Hajj bookings should not panic and wait for further instructions from their tour operator, but in the meantime remain vigilant and check that they have booked with an ATOL holder and have been issued with an ATOL certificate and that they are Ministry of Hajj & Umrah approved”.
The campaign makes it clear that those with existing bookings should also hold off from making further instalments until the Saudi Authorities announce Hajj 2020.
Commenting, Matt Buffey, Head of Consumer Protection at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
“When bookings for Hajj and Umrah recommence, make sure you research your travel provider before booking to ensure your important trip is ATOL protected.
“Making a booking through an agent that is not licenced by ATOL and the Ministry of Hajj & Umrah risks both your money and your pilgrimage. You can check for ATOL protection on our website at www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk.”
A spokesperson for Action Fraud said:
“Criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people. They will continue to exploit every angle of this current national crisis we find ourselves in and the Hajj & Umrah market is no different.
“Should this year’s Hajj pilgrimage be cancelled, criminals could use this as an opportunity to fraudulently offer refunds or alternative tours. Many people will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated if they are conned by fraudsters.
“We are reminding people to be vigilant at this time and do their research. If you are making a purchase online, look at reviews of the site you are buying from and where possible, pay with a credit card as most major credit card providers insure online purchases. If an offer seems too good to be true it probably is.
“If you receive an email, text or phone call you are not expecting, or from someone you do not know, asking for your personal or financial details, do not respond. Do not click on any links or attachments in suspicious emails or texts you are sent out of the blue. If you think you have become a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud via www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
Tony Quigley, Head of Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council, said:
“We are aware that attending Hajj and Umrah is vitally important in the Muslim faith, and traditionally our advice is to book with an ATOL registered travel agent but this year we’re all in a very different situation. Current Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice to British nationals is against all but essential international travel – and as such it would not be advisable to book Hajj packages while that advice remains in place”.
Over the past few years, the City of London Police has been working with Birmingham Trading Standards to carry out visits and checks on relevant tour operators and travel agents. More work will be done again this year to help educate officers on how to help victims of Hajj fraud and to ensure that victims understand how to report it to police.
When the Saudi Authorities resume Umrah and make announcements for Hajj 2020, please follow these three steps when booking your pilgrimage package;
- Only ever book with ATOL protected agents, who are Ministry of Hajj & Umrah Licensed.
- Insist that you get full ATOL information including an ATOL certificate at the point of booking. Do not wait until the money is paid or until instalments are cleared, this may be too late. You need the information immediately.
- If you have ANY concerns at all then seek advice from any of the parties listed below.
For further information about the campaign visit: www.cbhuk.org/hajj2020
Hajj Awareness Campaign Partners
FCO Travel Advice: Saudi Arabia
Report Hajj Travel Fraud
Consumer Advice and Reporting to Trading Standards
Check an ATOL Holder
CBHUK (The Council of British Hajjis)