Security authorities check pilgrims’ permit at entrances to Mecca. Image Credit: Okaz

Cairo: Saudi security authorities have turned back 159,188 residents during the current Hajj season for attempting to perform pilgrimage without legal permits, a senior security official has said.

Moreover, 5,868 foreign violators of the kingdom’s residency, labour and border security rules were arrested in the Saudi holy city of Mecca for planning to unlawfully undertake Hajj rites, added chief of the Saudi General Directorate of Public Security Lt.Gen. Mohammed Al Bassami.

Saudi authorities have stepped up security measures to ensure a seamless Hajj season in and around Mecca, with the return of the numbers of pilgrims to pre-pandemic levels.

Lt.Gen. Al Bassami, who heads a Hajj security committee, told Okaz newspaper that 109,118 vehicles were turned back at the entrances to Mecca for violating Hajj regulations, and 83 fake pilgrimage campaigns were exposed.

read more

Seasonal committees, manning checkpoints at Mecca entrances, are in charge of issuing on-the-spot administrative decrees against violators of Hajj rules and persons transporting pilgrims without legal permits. Transportation of pilgrims with no official permits for the first time is punishable by a fine of SR10,000 per pilgrim, jailing for 15 days and deportation after serving the term if the transporter is a foreigner.

A request is also filed to the judiciary to order the confiscation of the seized vehicle, and name to shame the offender.

If the offence is repeated for the second time, the fine rises to SR25,000 per pilgrim and jailing for two months with the violator deported after serving the term and barred from re-entry if the offender is an expatriate.

In the third time of the violation, penalties are toughened to include a fine of SR50,000 per illegal pilgrim, imprisonment for six months and deportation after serving the term and a ban on re-entry to the kingdom if the transporter is an expatriate.