Stiff penalties for firms trading in Umrah visas
The Council of Ministers instructed the ministries of interior and Hajj to carry out this directive
Saudi Arabia will block computer system of Umrah service companies and establishments in case any of their pilgrims overstayed their visas, according to the amendments made in the regulations for Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque.
The weekly session of the Council of Ministers, chaired on Monday by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, deputy premier and minister of defense, instructed the ministries of interior and Hajj to carry out this directive.
In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja said that the Cabinet approved the new regulations in this regard after reviewing the minutes prepared by the ministerial committee entrusted to carry out studies on how to address the difficulties faced while implementing the Umrah regulations and the executive bylaw pertaining to it.
The Cabinet stressed that the Ministry of Interior will take penal action contained in Article 60 of the residency law against the Umrah companies and establishments which engage in trading Umrah visa or promoting any fake programs so as to bring in people into the Kingdom for purpose other than Umrah performance.
The amendments have been made in the regulations to extend services for Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque, endorsed by an earlier Cabinet session held nearly 15 years ago.
After reviewing a report presented by the minister of economy and planning, and the recommendation of the standing committee at the Supreme Economic Council, the Cabinet approved the general goals of the Kingdom’s 10th Development Plan that was endorsed by the Shoura Council on June 23. Khoja said the plan contains 24 general goals, of which the most important one is to preserve the Islamic values and teachings, strengthen national unity and consolidate the Kingdom’s identity.
Other goals include expanding the potential of the national economy and bolstering its growth, stability and competitiveness, enabling citizens to secure permanent housing in line with the diverse programs and options aimed at meeting the requirements of people, strengthening the basic reform march and support civil society organizations besides raising the productive capacity of the state bodies and their employees, and consolidating the fundamentals of accountability and transparency, protecting integrity and combating corruption.
Khoja said the Cabinet also approved the inclusion of some amendments in the timeshare law with regard to tourist real estate units, that was endorsed by it in 1427H. According to the amendments, a new paragraph (No. 3) has been added to Article 4 of the law under which non-Saudis are prohibited from engaging in timesharing or its marketing in Makkah and Madinah, as well as from obtaining any right through timeshare agreements (without the way of inheritance) in the tourist real estate units in the holy cities.
Khoja said, the Cabinet congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his prominent role and keenness in the affairs of the Ummah.
The awarding of honorary doctorates to the King from Riyadh’s Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University and Al-Azhar of Cairo are in recognition of his pioneering role in serving the people of the world and achieving the principles of global peace and security, the Cabinet commended.
It expressed deep regret for not taking any decisive and courageous positions to end the suffering of the Syrian people in the ongoing conflict, which has already claimed the lives of more than 191,000 people and injuries to almost double of this figure at the hands of the Syrian regime which has lost its legitimacy.
The Kingdom reiterated its firm positions renouncing terrorism and extremism and rejecting and condemning the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by terrorist organizations in the name of Islam.
The Cabinet also thanked the security agencies for foiling attempts to smuggle in huge quantities of drugs worth SR1.8 billion and the arrest of 1,197 people involving in it over the past six months.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 15, 2014.