JEDDAH: FOUZIA KHAN
Published — Friday 4 October 2013
Last update 10 November 2013 3:27 am
The Ministry of Haj and the Makkah governor’s office have issued a strict warning to locals and expatriates not to go on Haj without a permit.
The government has limited the number of pilgrims who can perform Haj this year due to the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
A text message has been sent out from the governor’s office to all mobile phones in the country, warning expatriates not to go on Haj without a permit. Expats caught without a permit will be deported and banned from entering the Kingdom for 10 years.
Many expatriates in the past performed Haj by sneaking into the holy sites.
The Ministry of Haj has put up banners and posters near traffic lights and streets warning residents that they must have a permit. The Ministry has also hired volunteers who hold up banners at traffic signals in Makkah.
The Ministry of Haj launched a website to create awareness about Haj and publicize their campaign about unlicensed Haj trips. Residents can call 8002444480 to report fraudulent campaigns.
Passport Department officers at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah detected 55 people with a criminal history of counterfeiting trying to enter the country. All of them had previously been deported and banned from re-entering the Kingdom.
The forgers were detected due to the increased number of personnel at the Passport Department at the airport.
The airport lounge where the pilgrims are received have 142 counters, each equipped with a computer to record information of each pilgrim. The counters are equipped with cameras and fingerprint detection devices, state-of-the-art instruments to detect forgery, and disclose the identity of persons with criminal antecedents who are banned from entering the Kingdom. Every department member is equipped with a walkie-talkie for speedy communication between members.
The chief of Passport Department at the KAIA, Brig. Khalafallah Al-Tuwairqi, said that personnel in his department managed to detect 26 pilgrims with fake Haj permits. “We deported another 29 pilgrims who had criminal records and had been expelled from the country before. We put them back on the same plane they had entered the country with,” said Al-Tuwairqi.
He said preparations for this Haj season started immediately after the previous season ended, adding: “We make big efforts to support pilgrims with the help of trained and qualified staff. All the members working at the Haj Terminal are university graduates with several specializations,” he said.
He said that once a pilgrim reaches a counter, it only takes him a minute and a half to complete the procedures. “All counters can serve around 500 pilgrims within 15 minutes,” said Al-Tuwairqi, adding that there is a qualified team of women to handle women’s issues in full privacy.
Al-Tuwairqi said all government agencies and the operational teams and department at KAIA work according to the directions of the country’s leadership to facilitate the procedures for pilgrims. “We make extensive efforts for the comfort and safety of pilgrims during their arrival and departure,” he said.