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'Scam travel operators' warning to Hajj pilgrims to Mecca by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 14:00 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:08 06 July 2019

Cllr David Edgar...

Cllr David Edgar... "We won't hesitate to take action against rogue operators." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A warning to worshippers about scams while taking part in Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca is being sent out by Tower Hamlets Council.

Tower Hamlets Council issues alert to Hajj pilgrims about scam travel operators. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets Council issues alert to Hajj pilgrims about scam travel operators. Picture: Mike Brooke

Cabinet member David Edgar has fired a warning shot that the authority will move against rogue operators.

Trading standards officers are visiting East End mosques after Friday prayers alerting those planning the pilgrimage to Mecca next month on what to watch out for when booking their trips.

Fraudsters and criminals could strike with bogus travel arrangements, the town hall has found.

"We won't hesitate to take action against rogue operators," Cllr Edgar, the cabinet member for the environment, has warned.

"People put their trust in agents helping to plan their once in a lifetime trip and expect to be treated fairly."

This follows concerns in recent years with pilgrims losing money when unscrupulous operators shut down shop and often leave pilgrims stranded.

The town hall's trading standards office is gearing up to spot agents taking advantage of travellers.

Mayor John Biggs... Mayor John Biggs... "Unscrupulous outfits would exploit people'’s religious devotion." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs said: "There are a small number of unscrupulous outfits that would attempt to exploit people's religious devotion. Anyone booking their trip should to carry out checks and remain vigilant."

Previous issues have included agents disappearing with people's money from an operation in Whitechapel.

Complaints have also included pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia to find accommodation has been switched, hotel locations far from the holy sites or even flights booked outside of the five-day pilgrimage period.

The council, which urges pilgrims check they are booking through travel agents registered with ABTA or IATA and hold an Air Travel Organisers licence, is visiting mosques between 12 noon and 2pm each Friday until July 26 to give advice after prayers.

They start today at Bethnal Green's Bishops Way Mosque, followed on consecutive Fridays at Madina Jamme Masjid in Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, on July 12, Lansbury Estate Masjid in Alton Street, Poplar, on July 19, and lastly at Bow Common Masjid in Devons Road, July 26.

Some travel agents have already sold out for this year, the council has found, for this year's five-day pilgrimage period, from August 9 to 14.

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