Skip to content

Hajj costs a rip off, Senate lambastes travel agencies, summons ministers

Senator Abdirisak Osman Hassan Osman contributing to the debate on Hajj pilgrimage August 21, 2017. Photo: Goobjoog News

The Senate has strongly castigated travel agencies for imposing significantly high fees on Somalis traveling for the Hajj pilgrimage calling for government intervention to cushion the public against the exorbitant charges.

The Senate summoned Religious Affairs Minister Imaan Abdullahi Ali, Trade minister Khadra Ahmed Duale, Foreign Affairs minister Yusuf Garad and their Transport counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Salat to appear before it over the matter.

In a heated debated Monday afternoon, the Senators wondered why Somalis had to pay close to $4,000 to attend Hajj yet it would cost a much lesser amount. The Senators also questioned the rationale the travel agencies used to charge the same amount for Somalis in Mogadishu and regions such as Bosaso or Hargeisa which are located more than 1,000km away.

“Who decided pilgrims in Mogadishu can pay US$ 3,808 and a similar pilgrim in Bosaso which is far more than a 1,000km to pay the same? How can a pilgrim in Hargeisa pay $3,800 yet one in Djibouti pays $1,600 despite the fact that the two places are relatively close?” posed Senator Abdirisak Osman Jurille (Puntland). Jurille said the travel agencies were setting the law and implementing as they liked.

Senator Fatuma Hassan Adan (Jubbaland) said the Religious Affairs minister sought time to handle the matter since he was still new in office. “The minister told us he was aware of the matter but that he was still new in office. She said the minister would deal with it in the next Hajj or Umra period.”

The concerns by the Senators follow complaints that travel agencies have been charging high amounts for pilgrims to Hajj yet the services they were getting could not match the cost and that the figures were generally high in relation to a regular travel.

“The amount of money a Somali pays in relation to those from our neigbouring countries is significantly different. They [Somali pilgrims] are offered the worst service. The palace where Somali pilgrims stay and the places for other people are hugely different,” Senator Mohamed Amin Sheikh Hassan (HirShabelle said.

Senator Hassan Farah Hujale (Jubbaland) said the travel agencies were not accountable and set the fees on their own noting there was no law to regulate them. “There is no law that limits these agencies. They are not subject to any accountability. It is now time to summon the minister to shade light on this matter and the Senate can pass a law to deal with this matter.”

Another Senator, Muhayadin Sheikh Ali Jama (Somaliland) accused the Somali embassy in Kenya of colluding with travel agencies instead of providing support to Somalis who want to travel from Kenya. “This year I went for Umrah from Nairobi. I went to our embassy alongside other MPs. We were told to we could get a visa worth $700 from the market but not in the embassy. The embassy has a connection with these.”