The Saudi General Directorate of Passports says 1,725,455 pilgrims travelled to the Kingdom by air, 95,634 arrived via land borders and 17,250 via sea ports
JEDDAH, 7 August 2019 (CIC) – Saudi Arabia has so far welcomed more than 1.8 million pilgrims who have flocked to the country in preparation for the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage which begins later this week, according to the latest statistics issued on Wednesday by the Saudi General Directorate of Passports.
In a news conference in the port city of Jeddah, Major General Sulaiman Al Yahya, the Director General of Passports, said the total number of Hajj pilgrims who had arrived from abroad via air, land and sea ports until 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday afternoon was 1,838,339 pilgrims. The majority of the pilgrims arrived by plane.
Hajj, the largest annual gathering of people from all around the world, is due to begin this year on Friday August 9 and last until Wednesday August 14. In total, more than two million people, including Saudis and expatriate residents of the Kingdom, are expected in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for the Hajj this year.
In 2018, Saudi authorities have officially said that the total number of international and domestic pilgrims was 2.37 million, more than 1.75 million of them from abroad. The 2018 tally topped the 2017 tally of more than 2.35 million international and domestic pilgrims.
According to Wednesday’s official accounting, 1,725,455 pilgrims travelled from abroad by air into the Kingdom, 95,634 pilgrims came via land crossings and 17,250 via Saudi sea ports.
Of the international pilgrims this year, 969,726, or just over 53 percent, are men and 868,613, or nearly 47 percent, are women, noted Major General Sulaiman Al Yahya.
The tally of attendees may grow in the following days as pilgrims may continue to arrive and will still be welcomed, he said.
Major General Al Yahya highlighted key regulations such as the strict forbiddance of the illegal transport of pilgrims without a permit. He said that so far 24 persons were stopped trying to transport 96 persons illegally while 300 cases of fake visas were also caught.
A fine of 10,000 Saudi riyals for each pilgrim unlawfully transported, and 15 days imprisonment, is the penalty facing first time violators. For a second breach, violators will be fined 25,000 riyals for each pilgrim unlawfully transported and they face two months’ imprisonment. Upon a third violation, the fine will be 50,000 riyals for every pilgrim, with a jail term of six months, and a demand to confiscate via a judicial adjudication the vehicle used to transport the pilgrims. Additionally, if the offender is an expatriate they will be deported once the sentence has been served and will be permanently barred from returning to Saudi Arabia.
Major General Al Yahya urged all international pilgrims to abide by the period specified for their departure after performing Hajj, which is determined by their respective visa guidelines. Breaching these guidelines subjects violators to a penalty.
The General Directorate of Passports “has provided during the arrival stage all the qualified cadres and advanced technological systems to guarantee the speed and accuracy of arrival procedures for each pilgrim in record time,” he said.
Major General Al Yahya put at 171,648 the total number of pilgrims who benefitted this Hajj from the Makkah Route Initiative, a program first launched by Saudi Arabia during Hajj 2017 with a view to facilitate travel by international pilgrims. The program started with some Malaysian pilgrims but the new procedure was later expanded to include other countries. This year the program was implemented at Jakarta, Dhaka, Kuala Lumpur, Islamabad, and Tunis airports.
The initiative includes issuance of visas, completion of customs and passport procedures, ensuring compliance with health requirements, as well as sorting luggage according to transportation and housing arrangements in Saudi Arabia. Completing these procedures before departure hugely facilitates the pilgrims’ entry into the Kingdom, allowing them to head directly to their accommodations in Makkah and Madinah without dealing with time-consuming entry procedures. Luggage is handled by service agencies that transport baggage directly to the visitors’ places of residence.
Providing the highest level of service to facilitate the pilgrims’ journey in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, under the direct supervision of the Minister of Interior, who heads the Supreme Hajj Committee.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia held the annual Hajj military parade near Makkah. Taking part in the parade were soldiers from various units responsible for security during Hajj. Units from almost all Saudi security forces took part of the parade, displaying their abilities and readiness.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, the Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, on Monday inspected the readiness of Hajj security forces to carry out their duties to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims and facilitate their performance of their rituals, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has reported.
The minister patronized the ceremony organized by the Hajj security forces participating in the Hajj season this year, in the presence Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of Makkah Region, and a number of high-ranking members of Supreme Hajj Committee and commanders of the security sectors.