The diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia is inflicting anxiousness amongst Muslim Canadians planning to journey to the dominion for the hajj — with many questioning how they’ll return home.
The annual pilgrimage is the world’s largest mass gathering, with over two million folks, together with hundreds of Canadians, going to Mecca; a visit most Muslims are anticipated to make at the very least as soon as of their lives.
This yr, it takes place from Aug. 19 to 24.
However due to the dispute, Saudi Arabia has recalled hundreds of its college students from Canadian universities, and the dominion’s nationwide air provider, 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 have no thought how we’re going to get again to Canada,” Fachrizel Halim advised CBC Information.
Halim had already paid for his journey bundle, which may usually value about $15,000, when he heard that the airline was now not flying again to Toronto. He had supposed to return Sept. 3.
A number of Saudia clients advised CBC Information the airline offered a contact quantity to assist resolve the issue — however once they known 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 might be made to return by Europe or the U.S., however nothing’s been decided but.
“I am simply hoping all the things goes properly.”
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.
Annually, his Toronto firm takes 300 or extra folks on Saudia, with which he says his company has an settlement.
Anxious clients already asking for refunds
The airline “promised us to make different flights by Dubai or Egypt or different nations,” he mentioned, however what precisely his clients can count on is not but clear. Many have labored years to avoid wasting for the journey and would have needed to take a big period of time off from work too.
We strange folks… have nothing to do with all these politics.– Fachrizel Halim
Throwing a wrench into journey plans this near their journeys will little doubt make issues troublesome for them, Yahya mentioned.
Already, he estimates, he is obtained greater than 200 calls from clients nervous about how they’ll return home.
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 clients, he says.
In terms of arranging return flights on different routes, Ahmed says he is working right into a brick wall, with many already totally booked for hajj season.
“We’re actually frightened,” 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 advised CBC Information his workplace is working to search out out how many individuals are affected.
“I do know there’s quite a lot of respectable anxiousness,” he mentioned.
“Many are frightened that they will not be ready carry out their hajj and lose a lot of their deposit if not your entire fee that they made for that journey,” Alghabra mentioned. “It is not solely the lack of a dream that they have, but additionally 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 cellphone or electronic mail.
Travellers are additionally inspired to repeatedly test the authorities’s journey web site, which at the moment 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=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Hajj</a> group organizer/s will maintain alternate journey preparations on their behalf as some reviews recommend that failure to verify a return flight might imply vacationers are denied boarding or denied entry into <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SaudiArabia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#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 strange people who find themselves going for hajj in 2018 have nothing to do with all these politics.”