Dozens of hujjaj unable to perform hajj last year due to Covid restrictions are facing another hurdle – to get their refunds from certain defaulting hajj operators, writes an Al-Qalam Reporter.
Dozens of Hujjaj who paid for their (2020 / 1441) Hajj packages upfront last year are still waiting for their monies to be refunded by six travel operators in the country – and the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) warned that action would be taken against defaulters if monies aren’t paid back by February 20.
But, one travel operator who was flagged by SAHUC as a defaulter told Al Qalam that the monies of hujjaj were “tied up” with Saudi hotel operators who are yet to refund them. The operator said SAHUC was putting immense pressure on them to settle monies to the hujjaj – and pointed out that SAHUC was of no assistance to them, nor did they have empathy for the predicament they have found themselves in.
Saudi Arabia had effectively cancelled the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in 2020, limiting it for only a handful of Saudi citizens in order to stave of the Covid-19 Pandemic that has cost the lives of millions across the globe. There is still no word from the Saudi authorities on this year’s Hajj plans.
Meanwhile, SAHUC said in a press release that the majority of the accredited Hajj travel operators have refunded the Hujjaj. Only six operators “still have an outstanding balance or a credit owing to their Hujjaj” namely Al Jeem; Khidmatul Awaam Pilgrim Services; Nuri’s Travel; Yasmine’s Travel; Shafiq’s Travel and Rasools Travel.”
“All accredited Hajj travel operators have until the 20 February 2021 to ensure that the Hujjaj are refunded in full. Failure to refund the Hujjaj will result in legal action being taken by SAHUC, as they will be in breach of the Code of Conduct”, said Moaaz Casoo, Secretary General of SAHUC.
He advised hujjaj to insist on getting their full refund out and not to accept credit vouchers for a future hajj.
“Once again, we urge all the accredited Hujjaj from 2020 / 1441 to please ensure that you DO NOT leave your Hajj money with any accredited Hajj travel operator, nor should you accept a credit voucher as SAHUC has not agreed to these terms and conditions with any accredited Hajj travel operator.”
“SAHUC will not be held responsible if you sign an agreement with any accredited Hajj travel operator to leave your Hajj funds with them for future travel. Operators are accredited annually and there is no guarantee that the operator you may have selected in the year 2020 (1441H) may be accredited in the future.”
“We request that all the Hujjaj from 2020 (1441H) please email our offices at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not receive your Hajj refunds by the 20 of February 2021 In Shaa ALLAH. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not yet informed South Africa or any other country of its plans for Hajj 2021/1442. We assume it is due to the continuous Covid-19 waves at play. SAHUC will inform the public when we do receive any official communication from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah,” he added.
Shaheen Essop, the President of SAHUC said it was plausible that “operators were not holding the funds – the funds are either stuck in KSA or with airline companies.” Nonetheless, they had breached code of conduct rules, he said.
Al-Qalam pointed out that hajj operators were facing a cash crunch and shouldn’t SAHUC step in to assist, Essop said the organization was an NGO and “we administer and regulate hajj administration…we are not in a position of offering relief.”