Mist dispensers refreshen pilgrims as they walk up Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat
Mist dispensers refreshen pilgrims as they walk up Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat, also known as Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has turned back 256,481 visit visa holders from illegally performing the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, a security official has said, amid a heightened clampdown on irregular pilgrims.

Saudi authorities have repeatedly said a visit visa does not qualify its holder to perform the Hajj in and around the holy city of Mecca.

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A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Minister Col. Talal Al Shalhoub said authorities have also caught 160 fake Hajj campaigns since April 29 while 135,098 unauthorised vehicles have been turned back from entering Mecca.

Moreover, 250,381 non-residents of Mecca have been barred from entering the city, home to Islam's holiest site.

The official added at a press conference that Saudi Arabia will not allow slogans unrelated to the purposes of the Islamic Sharia code to be raised at the holy sites where the Hajj rites are taking place.

Saudi security agencies continue to impose a "tight" security cordon around the sacred places until the end of the Hajj season, he said.

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Stringent penalties against violators

The Saudi Ministry of Interior has vowed stringent penalties against violators of the Hajj rules inside certain areas including Mecca, the Central Area and sacred places during June 2- 20.

Violators of Hajj regulations, be they citizens, foreign residents and visitors arrested without a permit, are liable to a fine of SR10,000. Expatriate violators will also be deported and barred from re-entry into the kingdom. The fine will double on repetition.

Meanwhile, a person caught transporting violators of the Hajj-related instructions and illegal pilgrims faces jail for up to six months and a maximum fine of SR50,000.

If the violating transporter is an expatriate, the offender will be deported from the kingdom and denied re-entry after serving the term.

Hajj is one of Islam’s five obligatory duties. Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, must perform it at least once in a lifetime.