Saudi Arabia bans entry into holy sites without Hajj permit

Fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,666) will be imposed from Monday for those who breach regulations

The Saudi Interior Ministry on Sunday said a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,666) will be imposed on anyone trying to access the Grand Mosque or holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mt Arafat without a Hajj permit starting on Monday.

The penalty will be doubled if the offence is repeated during Hajj season this year.

Security personnel will patrol all roads, security checkposts and corridors leading to the central area around the Grand Mosque to prevent any attempts that breach these regulations.

This year, Hajj is expected to begin on July 17 and will host 60,000 pilgrims from within the kingdom in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Abdul Fattah Mashat, Saudi deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said this year's Hajj would provide an exceptional health environment for pilgrims.

The ministries of Hajj and Umrah, Human Resources and Social Development, signed an agreement to enhance the skills of workers for the Hajj season this year.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, approved the general plan for public security and responsibilities for Hajj pilgrims this year.

All arrangements were made according to the precautionary measures to combat coronavirus, the ministry said.

Lt Gen Khalid bin Qaraar Al Harbi, Director of Public Security, said the plan took into account security, organisational, traffic and humanitarian aspects to help achieve the safety of pilgrims.

The Ministry of Hajj said local companies must adhere to strict measures for efficient organisation and safety of pilgrims when taking them to Makkah and holy sites.

It is crucial for companies to identify pilgrims in Makkah and those coming from outside so they can offer them transport from their cities by land or air.

In case of special circumstances, companies can charge the cost of extra transfers to Makkah but must not inflate prices to a degree that encourages pilgrims to reach the city through illegal means.

Companies that will be responsible to transport pilgrims from outside Makkah must register the pilgrims' details and record the amount collected from each, and send it to the Ministry no later than July 13.

The ministry said companies must call all pilgrims, whose smart cards for entry must be given to them on their way to Makkah.

The Hajj smart card is encrypted with a QR code that enables pilgrims to download the app on their smartphones.

It contains every pilgrim’s information, including medical and residential details, and provides access to facilities and camps.

It uses near-field communication technology, which makes it readable by kiosks to identify crowded spots throughout the holy sites.

The ministry shared a live location link, using Google Maps, on its official Twitter page, showing the locations of the camps in Arafat and Mina.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is working with authorities "to prepare the residence sites for pilgrims in Arafat within a system that relies on modern technologies, and to link the co-ordinates of the sites to the guest’s smart card".

The ministry stressed that the companies should take all necessary measures for the arrival of pilgrims to the reception centre specified by the ministry at the entrances to Makkah in an organised manner according to the time specified for each bus. Each bus must have a team leader to guide pilgrims and must be restricted to 20 people.

The government has allocated 30 centres in Makkah to give doses of seasonal flu and meningitis vaccines to pilgrims performing Hajj this year. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Monday said there are no mandatory vaccinations for pilgrims other than the two doses of the Coronavirus vaccine, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Abdelfattah bin Suleiman Mashat launched the new version of the Co-ordination Council for Institutions and 'Companies Serving Domestic Pilgrims' website to provide the latest e-services to pilgrims and is set to launch the website in English and French among other languages.

Updated: July 5th 2021, 3:45 AM