Saudi Arabian authorities have started welcoming Hajj pilgrims who have travelled from across the world to undertake the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
They have deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to protect the nearly two million pilgrims, who are scheduled to travel to the holy shrine on Wednesday (31 August), the interior ministry announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
Briefing reporters on the ongoing preparations for the annual pilgrimage, Interior Ministry spokesperson Major General Mansour Al-Turki said that 1.72 million pilgrims have already reached the kingdom, and they will be joined by some 200,000 people from within the country in Mecca.
He confirmed that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have been denied entry into the kingdom for carrying inadequate or fake travel documents.
"More than 450,000 Hajj violators were returned after verifying they either lacked the proper permits or the ones they thought were legal turned out fake," Al-Turki was quoted by Al Arabiya as saying. The spokesman also said that their forces returned 208,236 buses carrying illegal pilgrims.
Additionally, 97 fake agencies were caught and fined for providing unlicensed permits to pilgrims, he noted.
The Hajj pilgrimage is an annual event in which hundreds of thousands of Muslims travel to a holy shrine in Mecca, called the Holy Kaaba. The worshipers perform circumambulation of the Kaaba and offer prayers at the Holy Mosque. The pilgrims later head to Mina where they spend the rest of the day in prayers before travelling to Mount Arafat, regarded as the ultimate rite in performing the Hajj.
Saudi authorities have reportedly hired 51,700 Saudi and expat employees in Mina to serve the pilgrims during their stay at the tent city.