Number of Egyptian overstayers hits 700

Updated 15 November 2012
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Number of Egyptian overstayers hits 700

JEDDAH: The number of Egyptian pilgrims who have overstayed their Umrah visas has grown to about 700 over the past few days. This figure includes children. This number has not been officially confirmed though.
In an attempt to get repatriated, the pilgrims have been sitting in front of the Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah and have now occupied private residential buildings in the vicinity.
Most of them are now experiencing difficulty as water and food supplies are low and they have resorted to sleeping on the street.
In September, 300 Egyptian visa overstayers were granted repatriation. Saudi immigration has since been less lenient.
These men and women had arrived earlier in the year on Umrah visas and had since stayed on illegally to wait for the Haj season.
Most of these pilgrims do not have their original passports, which are believed to be in the possession of travel operators. Repatriation by the Egyptian consulate would possibly let them bypass any penalties.
Egyptian Consul General Adel Al-Elfy and other high-ranking officials are monitoring the situation and insist that the pilgrims should respect the law and follow the immigration procedure of the Kingdom.
Around 80,000 Haj visas were issued to Egyptian pilgrims this year.


Lost Children’s Care Center helps to reunite families

Updated 4 min 40 sec ago
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Lost Children’s Care Center helps to reunite families

MINA: Pilgrims, like all parents, closely look after their children, but sometimes worshippers lose their offspring during Hajj due to the large crowds of people at the holy sites.

Many pilgrims opt to bring their children with them for educational purposes or out of necessity, especially with younger ones. However, some 11 of these youngsters were lost in Mina over the past two days of the Hajj.

While interviewing Lina Abu Zinada, a supervisor at the Lost Children’s Care Center at the holy sites, in the afternoon, a female pilgrim from Comoros was weeping over losing her ten-year-old child who had been reported lost since morning. The woman also lost her husband while they both were praying at a nearby mosque.

“This pilgrim has lost her child and we are doing our best to find him. She wanted to be taken to a police station as she thought that she could be safer there. We succeeded in calming her down. After a few hours, members of her country’s embassy came and took her to another place,” she said. 

Security men, boy scouts and even volunteers bring them lost children. “Once we receive a lost child, we first take all the details from the person bringing the lost child,” Abu Zinada told Arab News.

“We then document the information and descriptions of the lost child and forward them to our field agents along with the information of the person who brought the lost child. When someone loses a child, all that he or she can do is to reach a security man or anyone who takes them to our field workers. The latter immediately check with us to see if the information is the same,” Abu Zinada said.  

She said that their office had received 11 lost children of different nationalities and ages since this year’s Hajj started. “We managed to help 10 of these children find their parents,” she said. “We feed the network of guidance centers with all information about the lost children so that they can easily inform their parents that they are found and sent to the Lost Children’s Care Center.”

She said that all lost children are taken to their center, whether these children were found in Arafat, Mina or Muzdalifah.

Abu Zinada said that some of the children arrive at their office in such a hysterical state that they refuse to leave the person who brought them in.

“Some others accept the situation and respond to our information inquiry,” she said. She added that the youngest lost child they had found was five years old, while the oldest one was 12. The majority of the lost children were from Africa, she said.

“We have some of our team members who can communicate with the children in different languages beside Arabic. These languages are English, Urdu and French,” she said. She added that they sometimes seek the assistance of street cleaners to help them speak with the lost child.