London: A post-hajj event at the House of Lords by Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) has raised the plight of over 125,000 British Hajj & Umrah pilgrims who travel to Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage every year. Participants raised their concern about substantial number of vulnerable British Hajj pilgrims including elderly, sick and disabled who had been left stranded by the unscrupulous tour and travel operators once again this year.
Speakers emphasized that the worsening situation of exploitation of these travelers has been causing tremendous distress and mental anguish to them. It is highly deplorable that these unscrupulous tour and travel operators have no regard and respect for UK travel laws. Violation of the Package Travel Regulations 1992 (PTRs) has become a common practice amongst them.
In his welcoming remarks, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham went on to highlight the plight of vulnerable British Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and said while most tour operators are providing satisfactory service however, there are some who are exploiting the innocent pilgrims causing them severe mental anguish and trauma which is not acceptable in this civilized and democratic society.
Lord Phil Hunt, Deputy Leader Labor House of Lords praised the hard work and continuous efforts made by the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK to help and protect the British Hajj pilgrims from hardship and difficulties and he assured his full support towards this noble and humanitarian cause.
Members of the House of Parliament, John Hemming, Steve McCabe, Mike Gapes, Baroness Pola Uddin, Lord Toby Harris, also assured their help and support towards the welfare and well-being of British Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and stressed the importance of the awareness of health and safety and other issues related to performing Hajj amongst pilgrims and urged the relevant government departments to provide help and assistance to them.
Commander Steve Head, the London police chief also expressed his deep concern about the deterioratingsituation of exploitation of British Hajj travellers. He assured full support from police forces in London and other regions to address this issue. Detective Chief Inspector Desmond McHugh and Detective Inspector Mathew Bradford from City police also strongly stressed that all the victims of Hajj fraud must come forward and make their complaints to the authorities specifically to the national action fraud unit.
Birmingham Trading Standards chief Sajeela Naseer briefed about the action taken by the Birmingham Trading Standards to overcome the issue of exploitation and illegal activities of some of the unscrupulous tour and travel operators in the area. She also mentioned that some of the tour operators have been successfully prosecuted by the Birmingham Trading Standards and few other cases are awaiting court proceedings.
A senior doctor from the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK, Dr. Syed Raza Hussain stressed that the British travellers have always been at high risk of contracting infectious diseases due to their close proximity with millions of people from around the world during the pilgrimage. Therefore, it is extremely vital that specifically disadvantaged and hard to reach community groups must be made aware of vital life saving information about the preventive measures and how they should safeguard their health and well being during their Hajj/Umrah pilgrimage by the relevant health authorities.
A research report on the organization of Hajj-going among British Muslims by Dr. Sean McLoughlin, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds has been launched at this event. Dr. McLoughlin hopes that his work “will make a contribution to practitioners and policy-makers’ broader understanding of the changing social, economic, political and cultural dynamics at work in the organisation of Hajj-going in Britain”.