A UK-based organisation that works for the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, has strongly condemned price hikes in Haj packages by a number of tour and travel companies once again this year.
The Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) also supported the warning issued by the Saudi Ministry of Haj that it would take stern action against companies who are found raising Haj package prices for pilgrims this year.
The annual pilgrimage is due to start in early October.
A statement said: “It is highly deplorable that some rogue and unscrupulous service providers prey on vulnerable pilgrims, including sick, elderly and the disabled, through unjustified prices for their services.
“It is a total rip-off compared to similar travel packages to other travel destinations around the world, in view that many pilgrims are likely to have spent their life-savings to fulfil their desires and wishes to perform their religious obligations.”
The ABH said some service providers, including airlines, are taking “undue advantage” of vulnerable Haj/Umrah travellers by charging extortionate prices.
“The worsening situation of exploitation of vulnerable pilgrims has emerged as a great challenge for the authorities in Saudi Arabia and around the world,” it added.
The ABH urged Saudi authorities to help and protect vulnerable pilgrims and take stern action to eliminate malpractice, immoral and unethical activities of the rogue Haj service providers.
Last month, it was reported that Saudi authorities are taking action against 52 domestic Haj service providers for charging exorbitant rates for their services last year.
The Ministry of Haj said a report against the companies had been presented to a higher level ministerial committee for “penal action”.
“The punitive measures include suspension of service for one or more Haj seasons, and fines up to SR100,000,” Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar was quoted as saying.