Pilgrims Perspectives | Dialogue | thenews.com.pk

ajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the largest such gatherings in the world. This year, the rituals will begin on the evening of Thursday July 7 and end on Tuesday July 12. About two million pilgrims perform Hajj every year. However, this year the Saudi government is only allowing one million pilgrims from all over the world. Each country will be assigned a quota of pilgrims allowed to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) recently announced a new Hajj policy for the United Kingdom (UK), Europe, USA and Australia. Under the new policy, pilgrims can no longer request Hajj through travel agencies. They must apply for a place and book flights and accommodation directly through the Saudi Government Contractor Web Portal: https://www.motawif.com.sa.

Pilgrims from all Western countries must apply through this new lottery system. The new policy causes inconvenience to pilgrims. Minimum spend for UK pilgrims will increase from around £5,000 to £10,000 per person. Additionally, only a few thousand British Muslims will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office raised the issue with the Saudi government. He claims that not all issues have been resolved and continues to seek information from Saudi authorities.

MK Yasmin Qureshi, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Hajj and Umrah, has warned the Saudi government that the new system will not work. She asked Hajj Minister Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al Rabiah to ensure that the money is returned to claimants if the system does not work. She also urged the Saudi authorities to postpone the new lottery system until next year.

Saudi authorities, in response, said the change was part of their efforts against fraudulent travel agents.

Pilgrims who have already booked their Hajj trip through travel agencies have been urged by Saudi authorities to request a refund. “The situation has become embarrassing for travel agencies. The sudden change in policy has caused anger against businesses,” says Kashif Nawaz, CEO of Memon Travel & Tours London. “Only 20% of the applicants have obtained Hajj permission this year, which means that around 5,000 pilgrims could perform Hajj this year,” he adds.

Travel agencies cannot refund the amount immediately. Airline refunds take at least two weeks to process. The pilgrims are upset by the new policy of the Saudi authorities and the petitioners are still waiting for their response. “The UK Hajj travel industry is in danger of collapsing after Saudi Arabia this week announced an overhaul of the Hajj entry system,” Nawaz says.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) recently announced a new Hajj policy for the United Kingdom (UK), Europe, USA and Australia. Under the new policy, pilgrims can no longer request Hajj through travel agencies. They must apply for a place and book flights and accommodation directly through the Saudi Government Contractor Web Portal: https://www.motawif.com.sa.

To ensure their participation in the Hajj, some pilgrims have also paid fees through the Saudi website. However, they are still awaiting a response from the Saudi authorities.

Saudi entrepreneur Motawif recently said: “Applications to participate in the raffle are now closed. The results of the draw will be communicated between June 15 and 18. We will contact all candidates selected by our electronic drawing system. In the meantime, keep an eye on our social media for any updates.

Talking to TNS, Muhammad Waris, the muezzin of the Faizan Mosque, says the time to participate in Hajj is coming to an end. “Many of us are still waiting for an answer. There are only a few days left in performing the holy Hajj, but there is a lot of confusion. We need a ministry of miracles instead of the ministry of Hajj,” he said.

Some travelers are also sharing their frustration on social media, saying it is the first Hajj after the pandemic and they were happy to travel to the holy city of Makkah. However, now they are losing a lot, including their money. Some of them reported problems with a new online portal.

The Council of British Hajis has expressed concern over the delays.

According to the CBH, the Hajj industry contributes around £200 million, and typically 25,000 pilgrims travel for Hajj from the UK each year. Hajj businesses likely still have tens of millions of pounds stuck in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, when updating its official travel advice guide, the UK government said: ‘The system for UK nationals wishing to seek Hajj from outside Saudi Arabia has changed. British citizens must now apply directly to the Saudi authorities.

“The Saudi authorities’ Motawif website for Hajj 2022 applications was open for applications from June 10-13. Motawif’s update confirmed that they are aware of a number of instances of issues relating to fulfillment of payment and booking confirmations. We know that not all issues have been resolved and we continue to seek information from the Saudi authorities.

Due to the pandemic, Saudi authorities have also announced that “pilgrims must be under the age of 65 and have received the Covid-19 vaccine approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health. Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must submit a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of the time of departure to Saudi Arabia.


The writer is a correspondent for Geo News, the daily Jang and The News in London

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