The hottest ticket in town: Unlicensed pilgrims take desperate measures to sneak into Mecca
Saudi authorities have foiled the attempt of one undocumented pilgrim to smuggle himself into Mecca to perform the annual Muslim ritual of hajj, a local newspaper reported, quoting a passport control authority source.
The man was dressed in women’s clothing in an attempt to deceive passport control officers, Brigadier Aed al-Harbi, of hajj authority, told the Okaz daily on Monday.
Harbi said 73 persons have been arrested for transporting Saudi citizens and foreign expatriates trying to enter Mecca without pilgrimage permits.
The Saudi general directorate of passports detained 281 expats who overstayed their residency permits in the kingdom and 207 individuals who tried to enter the country illegally, Harbi added.
He said 1,604 people without proper hajj clothing were returned from entrance points. Some of them, Harbi added, had forged passports or fake visas.
At least eight buses carrying pilgrims without legal permits were stopped at several highway patrol inspection points. Transporters were detained and could face fine, imprisonment or deportation.
He said in total 20,534 of people who attempted to enter Mecca without official permits were returned.
Meanwhile, smuggling pilgrims through the mountains surrounding Mecca has renewed as in every season, the officer said, adding that the authorities were prepared to combat all illegal activity to ensure a smooth and safe pilgrimage.
Estimated 245,000 civil servants and employees were deployed to provide full support for the pilgrims, whose number is expected to reach about 3 million.
The Saudi health ministry has deployed 15 thousand employees to deal with various health issues during the hajj under the supervision of the highest pilgrimage committee, and the central Haj committee headed by the Emir of Mecca.
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