More than 188,000 illegal pilgrims were barred from entering the holy city of Makkah, since they didn’t obtain Hajj permissions, officials announced on Wednesday.
The Hajj Security Force Command revealed that 188,464 pilgrims were turned away while 83,746 vehicles were sent back from the 12 check points in Makkah, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
On last Sunday alone 8,750 persons and 1,226 vehicle were prevented from entering, the authority said.
Makkah enforces strict entry rules to prevent overcrowding during the Hajj season with only three categories of expats able to enter the holy city.
They include the holders of Hajj permits, those with residence permits issued from Makkah, and those with permits to work during Hajj.
Last this month, officials disclosed that 72,000 people had been turned away after entry restrictions came into force on June 25.
The General Directorate of Passports has warned of stringent penalties for violators.
The punishment for transporting a pilgrim who does not hold a regular Hajj permit includes the confiscation of the vehicle, 15 days in prison and a fine of SAR10,000 ($2,667) per pilgrim.
For expatriates there will be the additional punishment of deportation and a ban from returning to the kingdom after serving their sentence.
Those that repeat the offence a second time will face two months in prison, a fine of SAR25,000 ($6,667) per pilgrim and those that repeat it a third time six months in jail and a fine of SAR50,000 ($13,335) per pilgrim.
The directorate called on all citizens and residents to abide by the Hajj rules and only transport those with official permits to enter Makkah. Citizens from the other GCC countries must also carry official permission from their government to perform Hajj.
The kingdom has so far welcomed more than one million pilgrims from abroad to perform the Hajj.
The five-day Hajj ritual, expected to begin on August 19, is a once-in-a-lifetime religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. Pilgrims retrace the route Prophet Mohammad took 14 centuries ago in what is the largest annual gathering of Muslims.
The 2017 Hajj season saw more than 2.35 million pilgrims converge on Makkah including 1.75 million from outside Saudi Arabia.