RIYADH (Xinhua) — Saudi Arabia has banned more than 24,000 domestic pilgrims from entering Mecca for not having Haj permits, according to local newspaper Sunday.
They were stopped at checkpoints in Taif in the last few days as part of tough measures to ban illegal pilgrims from performing Haj.
“Checkpoints have been set up early this year to stop illegal pilgrims from making it into the holy city,” said Brig. Taif police chief Mohammed Al-Waleedi added that police have intensified security checks on the roads and routes leading to Mecca amid heightened laws and extensive expansion works.
People without Haj permits often take rocky routes from Taif to Makkah, hoping to avoid security checkpoints by traveling through mountainous regions.
These pilgrims, many of whom cannot afford to pay for Haj through a licensed establishment, make prior agreements with brokers who have experience in smuggling people in and who know which roads are far away from checkpoints.
Haj Authority has reduced for the second year in a row the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 per cent and domestic pilgrims by 50 per cent because of expansion operations at the grand mosque in Mecca.