JEDDAH: More than 1.68 million Hajj pilgrims had arrived in the Kingdom by noon on Thursday, the General Directorate of Passports announced.
Maj. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya, director general of passports, told a press conference: “Up to this moment, our air, land and sea checkpoints have warmly received 1,684,629 pilgrims from different countries of the world.”
According to Al-Yahya, 1,584,085 pilgrims have arrived by air, 84,381 entered the country via land crossing points, and 16,163 came by sea.
“Under close supervision by the minister of interior, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, and a daily follow-up by the Makkah governor, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, we had an early plan to efficiently receive Hajj worshippers. For that reason, we have all qualified personnel and modern technology available for their service so that the arrival process is done in a short time as possible,” he said.
Al-Yahya said that well-trained staff members were present to prevent lawbreakers from entering the holy sites.
“The role of these workers is to take hold of law violators and impose penalties on them. They are working 24 hours a day. For example, a driver who illegally transports pilgrims into Makkah will be fined SR10,000 ($2,600) for every passenger he is caught transporting,” Al-Yahya said.
The violation would also bring a 15-day jail sentence.
“When the same violator commits the same felony, a SR25,000 fine will be imposed for every passenger he is carrying, in addition to two months in jail. Third-time offenders will spend six months in jail and will have to pay a fine of SR50,000,” he said.
He said that about 18 drivers have been detained following violations. Punishments will vary since some were caught using relatives’ cars.
Al-Yahya said a pilgrims’ departure plan was in place to assist worshippers in departing for their countries after their rituals have been completed.
Al-Yahya highlighted the contribution of women in the passports system during Hajj.
“We have 107 women officials working at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport. There are others in different locations, such as Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah, where 58 female agents are working.”
Al-Yahya said that the directorate is using the latest technology to counter passport counterfeiting, a growing problem around the world.
He praised the Makkah Route project, saying pilgrims had been able to enter the Kingdom with minimal delay and without complications.
Pilgrims on this route took no more than 35 minutes to leave their flights and board buses for the holy city.
“Even on their way to Makkah, they don’t need to stop at checkpoints,” he said.
‘Makkah Road’ pilgrims
Thursday morning saw the arrival in Saudi Arabia of the final flights of this year’s “Makkah Road” initiative. The project, which was implemented this year, has seen 103,057 pilgrims arrive to perform Hajj on 240 flights from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to Jeddah and Madinah.
Al-Yahya said that the initiative has been a huge success, and represents just one of many projects that the Supreme Hajj Committee is developing under the direction of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif.