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Saudi Arabia repatriates 300 Egyptian pilgrims for ‘traveling on tourism visas’

Three-hundred Egyptian pilgrims yesterday returned to the Cairo from Saudi Arabia for allegedly “attempting to enter the kingdom with tourism visas.”

On Wednesday, the Egyptian security forces at the Cairo International Airport banned several passengers holding Saudi tourism visas from travelling. The move came days after the Saudi authorities had informed various airlines to prevent tourist visa holders from travelling during the pilgrimage season.

Local media reported that the Egyptian violators were due to be interrogated by the airport authorities.

Egypt’s foreign ministry recently called on its citizens “not to travel to Saudi Arabia on tourism visas during the pilgrimage season,” stressing that such visa holders were subject to “arrest upon arrival to the kingdom.”

Egyptian travel agencies have been applying for tourist visas for pilgrims, circumventing the official route of issuing a Saudi pilgrimage visa.

In March, Riyadh introduced a new “Tourist eVisa,” to allow those wishing to attend social events in the kingdom. The visa is set to be issued in 24 hours.

The gulf state was reported to have received nearly 8 million people during Umrah time this year. It recently announced that it would receive about 2 million pilgrims this year.

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