Zero tolerance for violators: Maj. Gen. Yahya

Saudi Arabia ready to expand Makkah Initiative to other countries


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The Directorate General of Passports announced on Thursday that the arrivals of foreign Haj pilgrims is over with a total of 1,684,629 pilgrims from foreign countries entering the Kingdom as of on Thursday afternoon.

Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al Yahya, director general, said in a press conference that the number of pilgrims coming by air was 1,584,085, by land route 84,381 and while by sea 16,163.

He added that Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman were keen on facilitating easier and comfortable arrival of pilgrims from abroad.

He said that effective usage of technology has given an edge to Saudi Passports department to assist pilgrims while arrival and departure from Kingdom where biometrics play an important role.

He told that handheld devices and other equipment were integrated with National Information Center of Ministry of Interior.

Maj. Gen. Al Yahya quoted a case where two pilgrims had lost their passports but with biometrics records they were allowed to enter the Kingdom, and later their respective foreign missions issued passports to them.

The latest technology has been helpful as it reduces the procedural time at entrance points, he added.

He noted that his department has been reducing the usage of manual documentation to a great extent.

He said that each and every counter of passport officers, at arrival points, are equipped with the latest technology that disclose information of each and every pilgrim entering the Kingdom.

The director general said that advanced technology has eliminated any attempt to fool the system. He said that five pilgrims were arrested for having forged passports.

Hailing the role of the women officers of his department in assiting pilgrims arrival, he said that the women officers worked well and efficiently. He cited that there were 107 women officers on duty at King Abdulaziz International Airport, 58 women officers at Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah and 28 women officers were at Jeddah Islamic Port.

Later, while speaking to Saudi Gazette, Maj. Gen. Al Yahya said that Kingdom is willing to cooperate with more countries around the world to implement the Proof of Concept (POC) system for pre-clearance at the point of departure in home countries.

The POC system enables immigration checks in home countries at time of departure, instead of in the Kingdom on arrival. This new system has been named as Makkah Initiative.

Maj. Gen. Al Yahya added that the Makkah Initiative reflects the Kingdom’s keenness to facilitate easier arrival of pilgrims. He said that it was the Indonesian authorities’ decision to chose a single airport of Jakarta for the Makkah Initiative.

The Kingdom’s top passport officer also said that there will zero tolerance towards any violations in Haj.

He said that special administrative committees have been formed and are operating at the entrances of Makkah, such as Shimasi, Tanim, Bouhaita and Qarn where they expedite the administrative decision against any Haj violator on the spot.