The diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia is inflicting nervousness amongst Muslim Canadians planning to journey to the dominion for the hajj — with many questioning how they will return residence.
The annual pilgrimage is the world’s largest mass gathering, with over two million folks, together with 1000’s of Canadians, going to Mecca; a visit most Muslims are anticipated to make not less than as soon as of their lives.
This 12 months, it takes place from Aug. 19 to 24.
However due to the dispute, Saudi Arabia has recalled of 1000’s of its college students from Canadian universities, and the dominion’s nationwide air service, Saudia, is suspending flights to and from Toronto starting on Aug. 13. Saudia is widespread with hajj-goers who depart from Toronto for the roughly 11-hour flight.
‘Returning is the difficulty’
”We do not know how we’re going to get again to Canada,” Fachrizel Halim informed CBC Information.
Halim had already paid for his journey bundle, which might usually value about $15,000, when he heard that the airline was not flying again to Toronto. He had supposed to return Sept. 3.
A number of Saudia prospects informed CBC Information the airline supplied a contact quantity to assist resolve the issue — however after they referred to as there was no reply.
“They’re getting on the aircraft, which is nice,” mentioned Sima Atcha, who was at Toronto’s Pearson airport to see off her daughter and son-in-law. “Returning is the difficulty. We do not know what is going on to occur with the return.”
Atcha mentioned she was reassured by journey brokers that preparations will likely be made to return by Europe or the U.S., however nothing’s been decided but.
“I am simply hoping every little thing goes nicely.”
At Al Madina Hajj Journey, supervisor Faez Yahya says he is by no means seen something like this in his 15 years of arranging hajj journeys.
Every year, his Toronto firm takes 300 or extra folks on Saudia, with which he says his company has an settlement.
Anxious prospects already asking for refunds
The airline “promised us to make various flights by Dubai or Egypt or different nations,” he mentioned, however what precisely his prospects can anticipate is not but clear. Many have labored years to save lots of for the journey and would have needed to take a major period of time off from work too.
We atypical folks… have nothing to do with all these politics.– Fachrizel Halim
Throwing a wrench into journey plans this near their journeys will little question make issues tough for them, Yahya mentioned.
Already, he estimates, he is acquired greater than 200 calls from prospects nervous about how they will return residence.
Jamil Ahmed, operations supervisor at King Journey, mentioned he issued as many as 20 refunds on Tuesday alone to folks too anxious to make the journey.
“What is going to occur? What is going to occur?” he retains listening to from panicked prospects, he says.
In terms of arranging return flights on different routes, Ahmed says he is operating right into a brick wall, with many already absolutely booked for hajj season.
“We’re actually fearful,” he mentioned.
‘Common’ consular operations proceed
Requested how the diplomatic row will have an effect on Canadians making the pilgrimage, parliamentary secretary for consular affairs Omar Alghabra informed CBC Information his workplace is working to learn how many individuals are affected.
“I do know there’s a variety of legit nervousness,” he mentioned.
“Many are fearful that they is probably not ready carry out their hajj and lose a lot of their deposit if not all the cost that they made for that journey,” Alghabra mentioned. “It isn’t solely the lack of a dream that they’ve, but in addition monetary assets.”
International Affairs mentioned in a press release that the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh continues “common operations,” together with consular service. In case of emergency, travellers can contact the Emergency Watch and Centre in Ottawa by telephone or e mail.
Travellers are additionally inspired to usually examine the federal government’s journey web site, which presently urges a “excessive diploma of warning” for these visiting Saudi Arabia, given the specter of terrorist assaults and safety incidents.
In a tweet Wednesday, the Nationwide Council of Canadian Muslims urged Canadians making the pilgrimage to take particular care in terms of alternate journey preparations.
(2/2) We urge vacationers to not assume their <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Hajj?src=hash&ref_src=twsrcpercent5Etfw”>#Hajj</a> group organizer/s will maintain alternate journey preparations on their behalf as some stories recommend that failure to verify a return flight may imply vacationers are denied boarding or denied entry into <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SaudiArabia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrcpercent5Etfw”>#SaudiArabia</a>.
As for Halim, who departed from Toronto on Wednesday, he stays hopeful that journey preparations will work themselves out regardless of not with the ability to attain the Saudi airline.
“We atypical people who find themselves going for hajj in 2018 have nothing to do with all these politics.”