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Bradford travel firm steps in to help pilgrims caught up by visa red tape get to Mecca
A Bradford travel company has stepped in to help people who feared they would miss this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca because of journey delays.
The Telegraph & Argus reported yesterday on problems faced by travellers whose trip had been postponed because of apparent visa issues encountered by the Hajj & Umrah agents in Leeds Road.
The T&A had spoken to people who protested at the travel agent’s this week for “wrecking” their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage with one would-be traveller claiming he had been left £40,000 out of pocket because visas ordered for the trip came too late.
Now Sohail Bhatti, of Skyfly Connections and Bradford Travel Centre in Lumb Lane, said Hajj & Umrah had asked them to help get passengers to Mecca because of the visa delay issues encountered with Saudi authorities.
“We are carrying 108 of their passengers because of this unfortunate situation, which is out of the agent’s control, so pilgrims can arrive this morning in time for Hajj,” Mr Bhatti said.
A spokesman for the Hajj & Umrah said out of the five passengers who complained to the T&A, three had now travelled. Ninety nine per cent of customers had now set off.
Police visited the Hajj & Umrah agents on Leeds Road and spoke to the owner following complaints.
A spokesman said: “No offences have been committed. This is a civil matter between the company and customers.”
A statement by the Civil Aviation Authority regarding the Bradford agent’s said: “We can confirm that the company is a registered ATOL holder and is licensed to sell packages and other ATOL-protected trips.
“Following recent inquires from customers, we have been in touch with the company and understand they have made alternative arrangements for a number of groups unable to travel on the date of their original booking.
“Customers that do not feel the alternative arrangements are suitable should contact the ATOL holder.”
Meanwhile, a national charity created to help those making the holy pilgrimage to Mecca has expressed grave concerns many British pilgrims are being exploited by unscrupulous and rogue agents.
The warning comes from the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH), formed in 1998 by senior doctors and other professionals to ensure the welfare of British overseas travellers.
Khalid Pervez, the general secretary of the ABH, has urged the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to crack down on rogue Hajj service providers.