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Smugglers of illegal pilgrims fined

An administrative court has slapped a fine of SR 280,000 on a smuggler of illegal pilgrims to Makkah during the past Haj season. The punishment also included jail time and the confiscation of his vehicle. In a similar incident, the court also fined another smuggler SR 110,000. 
The administrative committee of the Passport Department looked into the violations committed by 80 smugglers during Haj season, Al-Madinah daily reported yesterday. 
There are two types of pilgrim smuggling during the Haj season. The more serious violation is helping illegal residents into the country to travel to Makkah or the holy sites. The other violation entails transporting pilgrims without the mandatory Haj permit.
The amount of the fine varies depending on the seriousness of the violation and the number of illegal pilgrims the accused transports to the holy city. The minimum fine for smuggling a single illegal pilgrim is SR10,000. If the smuggler repeats this crime again the fine is doubled. 
“The expatriates administration started receiving arrested pilgrims who did not carry residence permits as well as the drivers who carried them to the holy city, since the beginning of the Haj season,” Brig. Hussain Al-Harithy, director of the expatriates administration at the Passport Department in Jeddah, said.
The administrative committee interrogated and released a smuggler on bail, on the condition that he should be present for his trial at a later date, he said.
Head of the administrative committee Col. Ali Al-Shahrani said security officers at various checkpoints on the roads leading to Makkah, checked all vehicles carrying pilgrims.
If the pilgrims did not carry the mandatory Haj permit, the driver was detained and the pilgrims were sent back to the place from where they started their journey. If the pilgrims did not have valid residence documents they were also detained, he said.
“If the smuggled pilgrims are without valid residence permits, the driver is fined between SR 10,000 and SR 100,000 for each illegal foreigner he transports,” Lt. Col. Abdul Rahman Al-Qarni said, adding that the driver may receive six months jail time as well.
“If the pilgrims are legal residents or Saudis without the Haj permit, the fine does not exceed SR 10,000,” he said. The vehicle used for transporting the illegal pilgrims is also seized, he said.
According to reports, close to 1.4 million people performed Haj this year without permit. Authorities announced that tough measures will be taken against illegal pilgrims and those who transport them to Makkah. 

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