Warning given for Mecca pilgrims
Muslims planning to take the annual pilgrimage to Mecca are being warned by Trading Standards officers not to be caught out by unscrupulous tour agents.
Officers in Birmingham have joined forces with the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) to raise awareness of the potential problem.
About 50,000 British Muslims make the Hajj trip each year. More than 80% of the travellers are aged 65 or over.
Trading Standards is investigating complaints made last year.
Neil Eustace, chair of the Public Protection Committee in Birmingham, said: “Some unscrupulous tour operators target the Muslim community, claiming they specialise in organising Hajj.
“They often don’t have an air travel operators licence and are therefore breaking UK law and not providing legal protection for travellers.
“It is a disgrace that these rogue travel agents are preying on vulnerable people at such an important time in their lives and we will do everything we can to protect these travellers.”
An air travel operators licence is granted by the Civil Aviation Authority and protects travellers from losing their money or being stranded abroad.
It does this by carrying out checks on the tour operators and travel organisers it licenses, and requiring a financial guarantee called a bond.