x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chairman warns of steep fines for haj companies

Companies organising trips to Mecca for haj will face large fines if they do not properly ensure the welfare of UAE pilgrims, an official has warned.

ABU DHABI // Companies organising trips to Mecca for haj will face large fines if they do not properly ensure the welfare of UAE pilgrims, an official has warned. Mohammed Obaid al Mazroui, the chairman of the UAE official haj mission, urged the firms to provide all the necessary services to those under their care or face the penalties, the state news agency, WAM, reported yesterday.

He said they needed to provide services to ensure the pilgrims were not only safe but comfortable, particularly during the longer parts of the haj, such as at Arafat, where they spend an afternoon standing in contemplative vigil near the hill from which the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon. It is the responsibility of the firms to act quickly in an emergency and have help at hand, Mr Mazroui said. There have been several tragedies during recent pilgrimages. In 2006, more than 400 pilgrims were killed in a stampede at Mina.

In past years several UAE companies organising the trips lost their licences after failing to meet the government's standards. Approximately 6,000 people from the UAE - 5,000 Emiratis and about 1,000 expatriates - are expected to perform haj this year. lmorris@thenational.ae