Saudi Arabia: Umrah Pilgrims Warned Against Overstaying

Muhammad Humaidan / Arab News
Jeddah, Aug 7:
The Passport Department has warned Umrah pilgrims against using the services of illegal agents who promise to arrange for the Umrah pilgrims to “bridge” their stay in the Kingdom so that they may also perform Haj. It is common for Umrah pilgrims to remain in the country beyond the legal limit dictated on their visas in order to perform the lesser and obligatory pilgrimages on one visit. Ramadan, which begins near the end of August, is the high season for Umrah pilgrims, partly because of its proximity to Haj.

“There are brokers who tempt Umrah pilgrims to stay in Saudi Arabia until the Haj season. But such overstaying is illegal. Punishment for any pilgrim found staying in the Kingdom after the expiry of his visa includes imprisonment and deportation,” Passport Department spokesman for pilgrimage affairs Lt. Col. Abdullah Al-Harthy told Arab News on Thursday. “The punishments for people who attempt to give protection or hide overstayers after pilgrimage include imprisonment and fines.”

The Haj and Umrah Division of the Passport Department has intensified inspections at all border crossing points, seaports and airports.

The media division of the Passport Department has also undertaken awareness campaigns in countries where many pilgrims originate in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Haj. The campaigns are aimed at educating pilgrims about Saudi regulations prior to departure.

“We also collaborate with various pilgrim service companies to ensure that the pilgrims are able to perform their pilgrimages in a comfortable manner and after that they are leaving as per their travel schedule,” Al-Harthy said.

The Passport Department operates checkpoints on all roads leading to Makkah and the holy sites, the officer said, adding that there are foolproof plans to foil deliberate attempts to smuggle in Haj pilgrims illegally to the holy cities.

He said the experience accumulated in the past several years has helped the department implement effective strategies against violators of passport regulations.

He added that the recent introduction of the fingerprint system would be effective in stopping attempts to overstay.

“With the help of the system all details about a person including whether he is an expatriate worker or pilgrim and if he was involved in any crime or violation could be discovered quickly,” he said.


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