December 5 2013 Latest news:
by Adam Barnett, Reporter
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Dozens of people who booked to travel to the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrammage to Mecca, staged a protest outside a Forest Gate tour firm this week after being told their trip had been cancelled.
Police attended as customers demanded a refund after being told the company had not been able to secure them travel visas to Saudi Arabia and their £3,600 booking fee would not be returned for up to a year.
Holy Makkah Tours in Green Street had arranged for about 450 people to visit Mecca, but on Saturday the company wrote to more than 50 customers to tell them they would not be able to go.
The total spent by customers is estimated to be at least £180,000.
Ahmed Miah, who had tickets for the Hajj for Saturday, said the pilgrims were considering legal action.
He said: “There are a lot of people here and they feel cheated. They have taken our money. There is also a trust issue here, as it’s a spiritual trip. It should be properly regulated and there should be some organised body to liaise with the Saudi embassy.”
Saudi Arabia has tried to reduce the number of pilgrims coming from other countries by 20 per cent this year and has issued fewer visas for the Hajj.
Holy Makkah Tours has offered to refund the pilgrims in instalments, with some money paid now, some in the spring and the final payment around Ramadan next year.
It has also offered to arrange for a discount for the Hajj in 2014.
Mohammed Suba, manager at Holy Makkah Tours, said his company had been left out-of-pocket too, because some of the money has already been spent on hotels and flights.
He said although he won’t get that money back himself, and is under no obligation to refund his customers, he is intending to pay them back over time.
Holy Makkah Tours said in a statement: “May Allah give you all courage to forgive us for any shortcomings from our end and pray that we are able to offer a seamless service to all pilgrims in the future Insha-Allah (if God wills it).”