Tower Hamlets Council has relaunched its Hajj Project this year to provide Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia with useful health and travel advice ahead of their journey.
The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and must be carried out at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime.
Saudi Arabia recently announced that visas and travel packages for Hajj will now only be issued through its own portal and booking through other routes such as Travel agents will not be permitted. It is likely people who have already booked with travel companies in the borough, many of which will have been made pre-pandemic, may not be able to travel. Hajj packages can cost from £6,000 to around £10,000 per person in the UK.
Officers from Environmental Health and Trading Standards are visiting a selection of mosques in the borough in the lead up to the Hajj period to hand-out information leaflets after Friday prayers have taken place.
The leaflets provide advice on infectious disease, including the latest Covid-19 information, and officers are giving verbal advice and information in light of the changes to the Hajj booking system.
The Council’s visits started on 10 June and will conclude on Friday 1 July, with the Hajj period starting today (Thursday 30 June).
Shaykh Abdul Qayum, Head Imam, East London Mosque, said: “We appreciate Tower Hamlets Council addressing the pilgrims who are on their way to perform Hajj this year. No doubt, those who are performing Hajj for the first time need such essential training and information.
“The health guide and FCO information is very commendable, as this will be of great use. We convey our utmost gratitude to the Council for taking such an initiative to help the Hujjaj (Hajj pilgrims) through the Mosques of Tower Hamlets.
“We from East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre had a two day-long session of Hajj training, both in English and Bangla to help the pilgrims perform Hajj in the right possible way.”
Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I’m very pleased the Council’s Hajj Project has returned after being halted due to the pandemic. It is such an important pilgrimage for Muslims and hundreds of local residents embark every year. Covid-19 has also prevented that from happening and so this year is so important now Saudi Arabia is open again to international pilgrims.
“I am concerned about what the changes in the booking process mean for our residents and businesses. Many faithful save for years for this pilgrimage, it is a once in a lifetime experience. Hajj is the bread and butter of many local travel agents, and they could now be facing high losses. I urgently call for clarity to give our residents and businesses peace of mind.”
If you have been impacted by the changes, you can get advice and support:
- Anyone who has questions about a booking made through the new portal should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- People who booked packages with UK agents that are now not able to travel because of the changes should contact the agent for a full refund, under The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.
- If you think a package has been misdescribed or sold fraudulently, please report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens’ Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
Alternatively you can contact London Trading Standards by using our reporting tool here.