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Haj Ministry to curb beggars in the guise of pilgrims

30 March 2011 17:50
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JEDDAH. March 30. KAZINFORM The Haj Ministry has urged all licensed Umrah companies to ask their agents worldwide not to accept visa applications from people who intend to come to Saudi Arabia with the sole purpose of begging.

"You should not grant Umrah or Haj visas to pilgrims whose main intention is begging. This includes the sick, old, disabled and children," the ministry said in a circular on Tuesday. Arab News obtained a copy of the circular.

The ministry explained that the measure was intended to curb rising levels of begging during the sacred seasons.

"The measure was recommended by a committee comprising various concerned departments with a view to putting an end to begging during the Haj and Umrah seasons," the ministry said in the circular undersigned by Osman Ahmad Hariri, the ministry's acting director for the affairs of Umrah and Haj companies.

The office responsible for tackling begging in Jeddah recently said preparations have been made to reduce beggars during the recently started Umrah season.

The office said arrangements were made in collaboration with other authorities, including the police, the traffic department and the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, among others.

According to statistics from the past eight years, between 78 and 87 percent of beggars in the Kingdom were foreigners. The figures revealed begging was especially acute in Makkah and Madinah during the Ramadan and Haj months.

The reports said most beggars were Yemenis, followed by Egyptians and citizens of other African countries.

There are eight offices to combat begging in Jeddah in addition to four followup offices, Kazinform refers to Arab News.

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Zhanna Nurmaganbetova

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