By ROGER HARRISON | ARAB NEWS
Published: Oct 30, 2011 00:57
JEDDAH: The British Consulate General has released details of its Consular Haj Team. Led by Nagheena Akhtar, a consular duty officer from the Foreign Office in London, the team will be available to assist British Muslims performing Haj.
Based in Makkah for the duration of Haj, Akhtar brings singular expertise in consular affairs and procedures to augment the local skills of the other team members based in Saudi Arabia. She will be responsible for coordinating any assistance needed in the event of a variety of problems that frequently occur to some of the millions of pilgrims during Haj.
“We can assist if British nationals have lost their passports or travel documents, if they are hospitalized we can advise their next of kin, and we can advise and assist in getting money sent out if they lose theirs,” Akhtar said.
“In the more serious eventuality of a fatality,” she added, “we can assist in the repatriation of their loved one.”
The team functions as resource and conduit between a pilgrim who encounters problems and both the local authorities and the families in the UK.
British Consul General Mohammed Shokat said the fact that the team was smaller than in previous years was a reflection on the increased efficiency and facilities that the Saudi authorities had manifested.
“They really are tremendously good at what they do for pilgrims, particularly in free medical care, but sometimes they have a lot on their plate,” he said. “We can then help take some of that load.”
Akhtar’s particular skills and presence on the ground in Makkah would free up spare capacity in the consulate to allow normal operations and allow reinforcement if needed in particularly difficult incidents.
Operating from Makkah, Akhtar will coordinate the Haj team, part based in Jeddah and the balance in Riyadh.
The local members have all worked in the Kingdom for some time and bring their experience and contacts to the operation. A manned 24-hour helpline will allow British pilgrims to make contact and initiate assistance.
This is not Akhtar’s first visit to the Kingdom, as she was part of the UK consular deployment after the tragic coach crash in 2006 that took the lives of three people, two of them British pilgrims, and injured 34 others near Rabigh.
The UK team 24-hour helpline, open for the duration of Haj, is: Phone: 02-573 2555 or Fax: 02-573 2666.
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