The Council of British Hajjis has written to the foreign office and the Royal Saudi Embassy to express concerns for the welfare of British pilgrims who may have been stranded in Saudi Arabia and unable to fly back to the UK due to Volcanic Ash cloud.
Rashid Mogradia of the CBH said “Our main concern is the welfare of British pilgrims and to get their visas extended if they expire and advise tour operators to do what they can in providing food and accommodation for them in case of delays and to arrange a safe return back to the UK”.
Lord Adam Patel, head of the FCO British Hajj Delegation said “We urge all British nationals and pilgrims no matter where they are in the world that if they are in distress to contact the local British embassy, high commission or consulate. The government is working with tour operators to
ensure ferries, and Eurostar are at capacity to maximise the number of people they can bring home”.
The Foreign office has now got a dedicated website to advise travellers to keep in touch with their airlines.
It is possible that some visitors may be faced with the problem of expired visas during the coming days as a result of the UK airspace closure. All travellers should ensure their visas remain valid at all times. Umrah Pilgrims should get their visas extended through their Umrah agents. Similarly visit/business visa holders should approach their sponsors in order to extend the validity of their visas. The Passport Office Deportation Service (visa extension service) in Riyadh and Jeddah deal with this.
All travellers should be aware that if they fail to extend their visa validity prior to the visa expiry date they may be liable to a 10,000 SAR fine.
You should check with your insurance company. Some policies include cover for volcanic eruptions but many do not. Insurance taken out since the eruption will not include cover. For further information on travel insurance policies see the Association of British Insurers website. The ABTA website also provides useful information.
If you need to return to the UK urgently
Consider other travel options. Can you reach the UK by coach or train and ferry? Or fly to a country where you will be able to do this?
If you have run out of money
Ask a relative or friend to transfer money via a commercial money transfer service. The British Embassy can advise you how to do this.
If you are running out of medication
See if this is available at a local pharmacy or go to a local hospital or doctor. If you need help to find a hospital or doctor check the website of the British Embassy for this information or call the Embassy. If you are admitted to hospital, contact the British Embassy.
For those who are struggling with medication (stable medical condition but just running out of meds) & cannot find the same whilst in Saudi Arabia, you can contact Dr Mohammed Jiva at the the CBH who will be able to advise on alternatives. Click here to email.
If you need further information you can contact the FCO advice line on 0207 008 000 or the FCO website at www.fco.go.uk
Notes to editors:
The Council of British Hajjis (the CBH) is a voluntary organisation working at grass roots in the United Kingdom for the welfare of British Pilgrims and advisory to tour operators. It has established links and works in partnership with the NHS, Foreign Office, Department of Business and other statutory bodies. tel: 0845 833 4145 email: email@example.com web: www.the-cbh.org.uk .
Dr Mohammed Jiva is a registered GP and has been part of the FCO Hajj Delegation – Medical team for the past 5 years running and advisor to the CBH.