Umrah firms banned over overstaying pilgrims

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — The Ministry of Haj and Umrah has stopped the operations of four Umrah companies because some of their pilgrims overstayed in the Kingdom after performing their religious duties.

The ministry asked the companies to look for the overstaying pilgrims and ensure that they leave the Kingdom for the ban on them to be lifted, according to Makkah newspaper on Tuesday.

Mohammed Bin Badi, CEO of the National Committee for the Haj and Umrah, criticized the ministry’s decision and said it should have asked the companies to report overstaying pilgrims, as is in the case of recruitment offices.

He said looking for overstayers was not the responsibility of Haj and Umrah companies but the work of government agencies such as the passport police.

Badi said the ministry asked the companies to present copies of the passports of the overstaying pilgrims with the entry stamp and to look for them at the detention center in Al-Shumaisi.

“The companies are not allowed to keep the passports of the pilgrims, so how can the ministry ask them to present copes of the stamped passports?” he said.

Badi said the ministry would usually investigate any Haj or Umrah company when the rate of their overstaying pilgrims reaches 1 percent.

He recalled that last year the ministry stopped 11 Umrah companies. He said the companies should not be made responsible if any of their pilgrims decided to overstay in the Kingdom.

“Why does the ministry make the companies responsible for overstaying by pilgrims?” he said, adding that it is the responsibility of the passport police to look for and deport visa overstayers.