Saudi government announces Rs1.6m fine, six-month jail for overstaying pilgrims

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The Saudi government has announced that it will impose a fine of 50,000 rials (approximately Rs1.623 million) and six-month imprisonment on Umrah pilgrims staying beyond their designated schedule.

According to officials of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Saudi General Directorate of Passport has warned pilgrims to adhere to their travel schedules.

Any pilgrim failing to pay the designated fine will face an additional imprisonment. The Saudi passports division further said that those visiting the country on Umrah visas are not allowed to travel outside Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah.

It also warned the citizens and residents against transporting, employing, sheltering or hiding those with expired Umrah visas.

Talking to a local news outlet, a Pakistani official dealing with the issue said that the move has come after a number of pilgrims went missing and failed to return to their countries within the set time.

He said that some aspiring pilgrims begin seeking jobs or get involved in suspicious activities in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the ministry has sent a warning to private tour operators and directed them to remain vigilant while sending people to perform Umrah.

It said that tour operators will be held responsible for any person going missing while on pilgrimage. The license of the operators will be cancelled, besides other strict penal actions if the pilgrims do not return within the scheduled period.