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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 17:04 GMT
Indonesians deported from Mecca
Indonesian pilgrims leave Jeddah for Mecca on board a coach (9 December 2007)
Tens of thousands of Indonesians are due to take part in the Hajj
Saudi Arabia is deporting hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers after they were caught hiding in Mecca waiting to take part in the Hajj later this month.

The 600 Indonesians, whose residency permits had expired, were discovered by undercover police in two villas rented by an illegal pilgrimage company.

They are said to have paid hundreds of dollars each to be smuggled into Mecca.

Every year about two million Muslims converge on Mecca - the holiest place in Islam - to take part in the Hajj.

The pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam, which every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

This year's Hajj will begin on 19 December, the 8th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah, and end five days later.

'Overstayers'

On Sunday, the General Directorate of Passports in Mecca announced it had arrested the 600 Indonesian citizens and their disabled Indonesian guide in two neighbouring villas in the city's al-Aziziya district.

The arrests were made after a tip-off by undercover police, who had noticed something suspicious about the pilgrims living in the two buildings, according to the Saudi newspaper Arab News.

Some of the overstayers want to do Hajj and also work as maids for pilgrims - it's a good time to make money
Arrested Indonesian guide

"The guide had been taking requests from overstayers in Jeddah who wanted to perform Hajj. He agreed to sneak them into Mecca and gave them food and accommodation," an immigration official told the paper.

"The overstayers seem to have paid him well."

Saudi Arabia imposes strict quotas for pilgrims from each country and requires foreign nationals to register.

Many of the pilgrims were smuggled into Mecca in private vehicles, while others tried to avoid attracting attention by walking through the mountains which surround the city, the official added.

Arab News quoted the disabled guide saying he had charged the Indonesians up to 2,500 Saudi riyals ($670, 330) and had helped many others perform the Hajj in a similar way in the past.

"Some of the overstayers want to do Hajj and also work as maids for pilgrims. It's a good time to make money. They're killing two birds with one stone," he reportedly told Arab News.

The Indonesian consulate-general in Jeddah said it had assigned staff to co-ordinate with the Saudi authorities.

SEE ALSO
Hajj pilgrimage draws to a close
03 Jan 07 |  Middle East
New bridge planned at Hajj site
17 Jan 06 |  Middle East
History of deaths on the Hajj
12 Jan 06 |  Middle East
Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede
12 Jan 06 |  Middle East
Diary of the Hajj
16 Jan 06 |  Middle East
What is the Hajj?
27 Dec 06 |  Middle East

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