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Saudi warns of severe punishments for illegally transporting Hajj pilgrims

Saudi warns of severe punishments for illegally transporting Hajj pilgrims

Makkah enforces strict entry rules to prevent over crowding during the Hajj season

Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports has announced the formation of seasonal committees at the entrances of the holy city of Makkah to punish those transporting pilgrims without Hajj permits.

Makkah enforces strict entry rules to prevent over crowding 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.

Makkah region said earlier this month that 72,000 people were turned away after entry restrictions came into force on June 25.

Read: Saudi’s Makkah turns away 72,000 as Hajj restrictions come into force

The General Directorate of Passports warned on Sunday that field control centres had been established to issue administrative decisions against drivers violating the Hajj system.

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 tens of thousands of pilgrims, including 25,000 from neighbouring Yemen, where it is currently leading a coalition against the Houthi movement.

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.

Read: Muslims begin annual hajj pilgrimage in Makkah

The 2017 Hajj season saw more than 2.35 million pilgrims converge on Makkah including 1.75 million from outside Saudi Arabia.

Read: In pics: Hajj 2017 ends, more than 2.35m pilgrims take part

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