Saudi Arabia- Haj Terminal gets equipment to check visa forgeries

Passport authorities at King Abdulaziz International Airport Haj Terminal, Saudi Arabia have turned away 61 pilgrims so far because of discrepancies in their documents and fingerprint records, a senior official said on Tuesday. The General Directorate of Passports has installed state-of-the-art equipment to detect fraudulent Haj visas at the Haj Terminal in Jeddah. The equipment can accurately detect forgeries using techniques such as ultraviolet rays, fingerprint comparisons and infrared. Any illegal additions, deletions and alterations can be detected with the help of these devices. Brig. Ayed Al-Harbi, a commander of the Passport Forces for Haj, said 61 pilgrims were not allowed entry into the country either because of discrepancies in information supplied in their travel documents or because fingerprint records showed they were blacklisted. All land, sea and air entry points to the Kingdom have been linked to the fingerprint system, so that any traveler entering the country will have to undergo fingerprint examinations, said Al-Harbi. He added that deported expatriates would not be allowed to come back as Haj pilgrims. Commander of the Passport Forces for Haj at KAIA, Col. Khalafallah Al-Tuwairaqi said the Passport Department is determined not to permit any deported expatriate with a criminal record to return to the country using a different passport. The special (passports) lounge, staffed by trained personnel of the Passport Department, will be operating round the clock during the Haj season under the supervision of the superintendent of the Anti-Forgery Unit Lt. Col. Abdul Rahman Al-Takhis, said Al-Tuwairaqi. The equipment will also alert immigration officials if there is a security warning about any of the pilgrims. The system contains passport data from a large number of countries so that any forgeries could be identified. Al-Harbi said domestic pilgrims who attempt to enter the holy sites without Haj permits would be sternly dealt with. Passports officials at 16 entry points to Makkah are watching for violators of Haj and residence regulations, he said. Any traveler without a Haj permit or any vehicle carrying pilgrims without Haj permits will be stopped at these points. Those transporting illegal pilgrims will be fined up to SR10,000 for each pilgrim and will have their vehicle confiscated, he said. He added that 1,600 violators of residence regulations were detained and 2,900 pilgrims without permits were turned back up till Monday.