Police bent on blocking illegal pilgrims
Police have intensified checks on all roads and routes leading to Makkah in a bid to stop illegal pilgrims from infiltrating the city.
People without Haj permits often take rocky routes from Taif to Makkah, hoping to avoid security checkpoints by traveling through mountainous regions.
They make prior agreements with brokers who have experience in smuggling people in and who know which roads are far away from checkpoints.
Many people have aborted plans to perform Haj this year, saying they can’t find brokers.
“I was planning to perform Haj this year, but no longer dare since security authorities are on alert and brokers have disappeared,” one Egyptian resident told Arab News. “I always go without a permit because I don’t have enough money to pay an agency to perform the pilgrimage.”
Police managed to foil several infiltration attempts last year.
An estimated 1.4 million performed Haj without a permit in 2012, compared with only 484,000 in 2013, a 65 percent decline. In the past, unauthorized pilgrims were able to avoid checkpoints on roads leading to Makkah by using dirt roads..
“Last year’s success will help Saudi authorities intensify campaigns and put an end to this phenomenon once and for all,” Ali Abdul Khaleq, a Haj expert, told Arab News.
A high-ranking official recently announced that local pilgrims who are caught traveling to Makkah without a permit during Haj will be fingerprinted and sent back to their respective cities pending strict punitive action.
“Expats without a permit may be deported for violating the rules and Saudis will be fined,” Maj. Gen. Abdulaziz Al-Asouli, Makkah police chief, told Arab News.
This is the first year this rule will take effect, he said.
Around 15,000 pilgrims were caught and barred entry into Makkah last year.
“Haj inspection campaigns have been intensified to protect the rights of pilgrims with permits,” said Al-Asouli.
“Regional police forces are determined to ensure that legal pilgrims are able to perform a hassle-free pilgrimage.” he added.