By Arab News
By Badea Abu Al-Naja
The Saudi Arabia government has embarked on a major drive to flush out illegal residents in Makkah, Jeddah and Taif by developing underdeveloped residential districts in the three cities, Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said on Saturday.
“A number of studies have been conducted on the issue of foreigners who violate residency and labor laws and we have given utmost importance to the issue,” the governor said when asked about plans to prevent illegal residents from performing Haj this year.
Prince Khaled said the development of underdeveloped districts would take several years as it involves social and humanitarian issues. “We have to take all these matters into consideration in order to reach our goal. God willing, we will attain our goal gradually and it will take several years,” he explained.
Speaking to reporters after inspecting Haj arrangements in Makkah and other holy sites, Prince Khaled said the government has implemented a number of new projects and introduced new services for the welfare of pilgrims.
The new projects include full-scale operation of the Mashair Railway, which is set to transport more than 500,000 pilgrims this year, new fire-proof tents in Arafat and Muzdalifah and new municipality services to improve cleanliness in Makkah and the holy sites.
Asked about plans to extend the Mashair Railway to Makkah, Prince Khaled said it would be implemented after completing necessary studies. “Mashair will be linked with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Haramain Railway,” he pointed out.
“All of us wish that the pilgrims perform their religious duties in the best way and return to their respective countries safely. We would like to inform them that we have received directives from higher authorities to mobilize all resources to serve pilgrims,” the governor said.
He said the Central Haj Committee, which met Saturday, had discussed final preparations for the annual gathering and discussed new achievements and services. “Every year we add new services in our Haj operation for the benefit of pilgrims including new projects. We have done whatever possible for this year’s Haj but this is not our final goal. We have greater ambitions and objectives, which will be realized in the coming years. What we have done this year is just one step forward in that direction,” he added.
During his inspection tour, Prince Khaled was accompanied by a number of ministers and members of the Higher Authority for the Development of Makkah, Madinah and the Holy Sites. He began his tour from the control center of the Mashair Railway south of Arafat, where he was briefed on the railway’s functioning.
Later, he inspected the buses used for the transport system and emphasized the need to implement the remaining phases of the system in order to facilitate transport of pilgrims. Once the project is completed, it will help transport more than 3 million pilgrims between the holy sites.