Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, a National Charity working for the welfare and wellbeing of British Hajj/Umrah travellers has welcomed an important and landmark court judgement by sending travel agent, Chowdhury Haffiz Ahmed to jail for 15 months after he ripped off a family of prospective Hajj Pilgrims who paid £10,000 for their 5-star accommodation, food, and direct flights package but he failed to provide the promised services to the family.

Every year, over 125,000 British Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah. However, a large number of these travellers including disabled, sick, and elderly have been experiencing extreme hardship and difficulties over the past 30 years due to fraudulent, illegal activities, and the inhumane and degrading treatment from a number of unscrupulous and rogue Hajj/Umrah Tour and Travel Operators. The Muslim Community was angry and frustrated due to lack of a decisive action taken by the relevant law enforcement authorities to address this issue.

This outcry caused Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK to organise a vigorous campaign to highlight the plight of vulnerable British Hajj/Umrah travellers and violation of the Package Tour and Travel Regulations (PTRs) 1992. This violation has become a common practice amongst a substantial number of Tour and Travel Operators.

The Muslim Community welcomes this milestone judgement which has condemned the exploitation of vulnerable Hajj/Umrah travellers by the Crown Court. While sentencing the tour operator, the judge commented:

“There was a gross dereliction of his obligations as a Travel Operator.  He induced Mr Noori to pay £10,000 in the belief he would receive 4 and 5 star accommodation close to the place of worship and direct flights. He only made cheap and shabby arrangements. The Noori family ended up not with direct flights but at the last moment found there was an overnight stopover.”

“Instead of luxury accommodation they had to stay in a ‘cockroach infested hovel’.  The whole package could not have been more different to what they had expected.  Mr Ahmad made no attempt to help them and neither did the tour guide.  The Noori family were placed in dangerous and insanitary conditions. He falsely claimed to have ATOL and AITA. He failed to provide the information required by the Regulations.  He even tried to blame Mr Noori for some of the problems.”

Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, on behalf of the Muslim Community highly commends the hard work and efforts made by the Birmingham Trading Standards for achieving a successful conviction in the Chowdhury Haffiz Ahmed case. This has sent a strong message to other Tour and Travel Operators and will ensure rule of law is adhered to in the future.