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Warning against Hajj pilgrimage scams

52Residents who are considering embarking on this year’s Hajj pilgrimage should be on their guard against dodgy tour operators.

It is estimated there are around 40 companies selling pilgrimage packages in Tower Hamlets alone, whilst many are reputable, Tower Hamlets Council fears that some may fall short of expectations.

Past scams and rip-offs have included operators claiming people will be accommodated in five star hotels when this turns out not to be the case and, in extreme cases, agents completely disappearing with pilgrims’ money.

Every year about 25,000 people from the UK take the Hajj pilgrimage and a significant number travel from the borough.

The council will be providing essential information to residents who will be travelling to Hajj this year.

A consultation bus will be touring major mosques across the borough, for those attending Friday prayers, in the run up to Hajj.

Residents are advised to check that firms are properly registered and that tour operators hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, (ATOL) and belong to a trade organisation such as Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said, “Whilst the majority of Hajj pilgrimage tour agents who operate in the borough deliver a great service, there are a minority who cash in on religious devotion. These events will give residents in the borough the information they need to guard against those who unscrupulously take advantage of consumers.”

In addition to consumer awareness there is public health advice on how best to prevent ill health when travelling to Hajj.

The council’s Health and Safety Team will be promoting Public Health England’s advice to travellers to be aware of the health risks associated with overseas travel, especially when visiting the Middle East.

Public Health England has provided travel advice on how best to prevent ill health, including diarrhoea and other food and water-borne diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis, when travelling to Hajj.

Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs, cabinet member for Health and Adult Services added: “The good health of returning pilgrims is of the utmost importance and we urge everyone who is thinking of travelling to Hajj to ensure that they follow the advice of Public Health England. Our information bus will be ensuring that everyone is aware of the measures they should take to remain free from illness.”

The bus will be touring for five consecutive weeks at the following locations:

  • Friday, August 21 (12noon-2.30pm): East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, 46-92 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1JX
  • Friday, August 28 (12noon-2pm): Redcoat Community Centre, 256 Stepney Way, E1 3DW
  • Friday, September 4 (12noon-2pm): Brick Lane Jamia Mosque, 59 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
  • Friday, September 11 (12noon-2pm): Darul Ummah Jamme Mosque, 56 Bigland Street, E1 2ND

Officers from the council’s Consumer and Business Regulations Service will be on hand to answer questions.