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Illegal Hajj pilgrims risk fines and deportation

illegal pilgrims Mecca Saudi Arabia Pixabay
The Saudi government has been trying to crack down on illegal residents. Many have been Hajj visa overstayers
  • Jail for helping illegal pilgrims
  • $2,700 fine for no permit in Mecca
  • $13,000 fine for transporting violators

Fines for Saudi nationals and deportation for foreign residents taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage without a permit have been announced by the country’s interior ministry.

Those who help illegal pilgrims also face jail as the kingdom tries to impose stricter controls over the annual rites. 

A fine of SAR10,000 ($2,700) will be issued against nationals, expatriate residents and visitors found without a permit in the city of Mecca and surrounding pilgrimage sites, the ministry said. 

Foreign residents and visitors will be deported from the country and the fine will be increased for Saudi repeat offenders. 

Anyone who is caught transporting violators will face penalties of up to six months in prison and up to SAR50,000 per violator, a ministry statement said.

It also provided contacts for the public to inform on suspects. 

The terms apply from June 2 to June 20, when the Hajj pilgrimage is due to take place this year. 

Around two million people enter the country for the Hajj, but the numbers often swell as tens of thousands of Saudis and foreign residents enter Mecca without permits. 

The government has eased the permit process in recent years in line with its policy of expanding tourism as part of its economic transformation plan. Religious tourists form nearly 50 percent of all international arrivals. 

Pilgrims intending to do Hajj can now apply for their permit via an app.

Rules for the year-round Umrah pilgrimage have been made even easier, with visa on arrival for pilgrims resident in the EU, US and UK, or who possess a valid visa for those countries.

Nationals of Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Norway, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey can receive an Umrah visa on arrival.

The government has been trying to crack down on illegal residents to help boost Saudi employment numbers. Many illegals have often been Hajj visa overstayers.  

However, in April the Saudi government said it would take on the costs of normalising the status of displaced individuals from neighbouring countries, in what could amount to an amnesty for thousands of illegal migrants and refugees. 

One in 18 of Saudi Arabia’s 32 million population, or around 1.7 million people, are “refugees and displaced persons”, according to the government. 

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