Unified hajj visa system reviewed in Saudi Arabia

The unified visa system has been implemented for Indonesian and Indian pilgrims

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Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region and Chairman of the Central Haj Committee, reviewed in Makkah on Sunday a unified visa system for external pilgrims and launched the awareness campaign, “Haj is worship and civilized conduct.”

The unified visa system has been implemented for Indonesian and Indian pilgrims. A total of 615,976 visas were issued through this system.

The Emir also reviewed the operational plan of the Haj Ministry for the accommodation and transportation of pilgrims.

The Central Haj Committee meeting also discussed the rates for domestic pilgrims and the packages of services for them.

The ministry expects the number of pilgrims from abroad to be around 1.335 million and from within the Kingdom to be around 185,000.

Until Saturday, as many as 99,000 pilgrims had arrived, including 47,900 through King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and 51,100 via Prince Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.

According to the ministry, the sites for Tawafa establishments and local Haj companies in Mina were alloted to them in Rajab (May) while the sites in Arafat were allotted to them in mid-Shaban (June).

The ministry expects as many as 375,000 pilgrims to be transported between Makkah and the Holy Sites by Mashaer train.

Launching the Haj awareness campaign, Prince Khaled said the Kingdom and its leadership are proud to serve the Guests of Allah.

“Serving the pilgrims and ensuring their safety is the responsibility of everyone including citizens and officials,” he said.

He said every pilgrims should respect Haj rules and regulations.
“Respecting the Haj rules means respecting oneself,” the Emir said.

An average of 13,000 pilgrims are arriving a day, according to data from the Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat).

Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yaha said pilgrims are arriving through King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.

On Saturday Al-Yaya toured the Haj Terminal at KAIA to check the services being provided to pilgrims.

He said more than 1,800 officers, soldiers and employees of Jawazat have been stationed in the terminal to handle the large numbers of pilgrims.

“All the Kingdom’s air, sea and land entry points have been supplied with sufficient number of Jawazat personnel and modern equipment to detect forged documents and quickly process pilgrims’ passports,” he said.

Al-Yahya warned against transporting pilgrims without Haj permits and said those caught doing so would face harsh punishment.

According to Al-Yahya, any driver caught transporting illegal pilgrims will be imprisoned for 15 days and fined SR15,000.

“The punishment will increase with the number of violations to reach two years imprisonment and a fine of not less than SR50,000 for every transported pilgrim,” he said.

Al-Yahya asked all domestic pilgrims, both Saudis and expatriates, to strictly abide by Haj rules, and not to enter Makkah without a Haj permit.
Meanwhile, Interior Ministry sources said all entry points to Makkah have been provided with state-of-the-art technology to identify pilgrims via fingerprints and uncover forged passports and fake Haj permits.

The sources said pilgrims without Haj permits would be imprisoned at special detention cells near checkpoints. Expatriates trying to enter without a permit would be deported and banned from entering Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on August 24, 2015.

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