THE LEVANT – Haj pilgrims paid company Dh2.5m and unknowingly entered Saudi Arabia with fake permits. Around 100 UAE Haj pilgrims were scammed by an unauthorised company that used fake Haj permits to let the pilgrims enter Saudi Arabia, the Executive Director of Islamic Affairs at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment said.
The pilgrims, who paid the company around Dh2.5 million, unknowingly entered the country with fake permits, causing them to face many difficulties, where some were forced to sleep on the streets.
Gulf News spoke to Mohammad Obaid Al Mazroui, the Executive Director of Islamic Affairs at the authority and the head of UAE’s official Haj mission, who said legal measures will be taken against the firm.
“The owner attracted the pilgrims, who paid Dh25,000 each, into joining his false Haj campaign through social media. It is a fake company, it has no headquarters. We found out that its owner used to work in an administrative position for one of the UAE’s Haj campaigns but his services were then terminated.”
Al Mazroui believes the owner used the knowledge he earned from his previous job to successfully scam the pilgrims and authorities, to let them enter the country four days before the start of the Haj rituals.
“He met the pilgrims at the airport and took them to a hotel. The pilgrims only found out that they were being scammed when the actual Haj rituals started because they had no place at the UAE camp, which all Haj pilgrims from the UAE must stay.”
Al Mazroui said the owner managed to sneak some of the pilgrims into other camps (camps designated to other countries) while others had to sleep on the streets and cars.
Gulf News tried to contact the company, however, the numbers listed on the worldwide web under their name did not belong to the company.
According to an UAE Arabic daily, pilgrim Yousuf Al Hammadi said he found out about the Haj campaign through Instagram and registered his family members for the campaign.
“Once we reached Jeddah airport and we had to show our passport and Haj permits we found out that there were no permits under my name and my family’s name. But the owner of the campaign showed a permit that carried a UAE stamp so the employee thought there was a mistake in the system and let us in.”
Al Hammadi said once they arrived at the hotel he found out that it was four star and not five star, which is not what was agreed upon in the contract signed with the firm. “The owner asked us to stay in a temporary room while we waited for our actual room to be ready. We believed the temporary room was for the labour workers at the hotel.”
Khalid Al Naqbi, another pilgrim, told the Arabic daily that the campaign owner said that he can’t go to the UAE Haj camp because there was no electricity. Not having access to the camp caused Al Naqbi to sleep under trees, streets and in buses.
Al Mazroui called on all people to check the Haj pilgrim campaign before paying firms to make sure it is not a scam. He said the list of authorised campaigns can be seen online, adding that people can call one of the authority’s 10 branches to make sure of the campaign’s credibility.