Saudi Arabia will fine and jail individuals and companies transporting pilgrims who do not have a Hajj permit, as part of tough security measures in place for this year’s pilgrimage.
Hajj, which normally attracts upward of 2 million people from around the world, is taking place during the coronavirus pandemic and the Kingdom has severely restricted pilgrim numbers in order to contain the spread of the disease.
A security cordon will guard against any possible infiltration attempts of non-permitted pilgrims to ensure a safe Hajj season. Nobody except those with official permission from authorities is allowed to perform Hajj or enter the holy areas.
According to the General Directorate of Passports, individuals and companies transporting pilgrims without permits will face severe penalties for violating the law in addition to an extra penalty for endangering the health of the community. Penalties include fines, jail, and confiscation of their vehicles.
Expats found violating the measures will also face deportation from the country and they will be denied access to the Kingdom for a certain period.
Punishments start from SR10,000 ($2,666) for each illegally transported pilgrim and 15 days in jail for first time violators, and these penalties will double when the violation is repeated. The maximum fine is SR50,000 for each pilgrim and six months in prison in addition to confiscation of the vehicle.
Saudi Public Security said it had completed an exceptional safety plan for Hajj in order to fully implement health protocols in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Hajj this year is very different and exceptional,” Major-General Zayed Al-Tuyan, commander of Hajj Security, said on Sunday at a press conference.
“Hajj will be in very limited numbers under strict precautionary measures, and we will impose a complete security cordon around holy places and pilgrims during their movements.”
Al-Tuyan stressed that the numbers of pilgrims were very limited, no increase was allowed and that violators faced severe penalties.
He added that almost 70 percent of approvals for Hajj this year were given to expatriates from 160 nationalities, while the rest were given to Saudi citizens.
Pilgrims without permits would also face penalties for violating Hajj 2020 guidelines.
There are six main security centers around Makkah, in addition to other temporary offices to control the entrances of the city and holy sites.
Al-Tuyan warned against fake Hajj campaigns and tour guides, saying that there would be no such activities this year except for the services provided through the Hajj Ministry. “I strongly advise citizens and expatriates not to believe or fall for deceitful advertisements by those who promote themselves to lead campaigns or coordinate with fake offices, only those who have been permitted by the Ministry of Hajj will be allowed to perform.”
Security measures will ensure social distancing for pilgrims from their arrival in Makkah and throughout the different stages of Hajj.
“We work in close coordination and planning with the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Hajj, and the Ministry of Health,” Al-Tuyan added.
Saudi Arabia earlier this year took the dramatic step of suspending the Umrah and Hajj seasons for citizens, expats residing in the country as well as international pilgrims, to prevent COVID-19 from spreading through crowds to the holy sites.
Source: Arab News