Saudi Arabia detains hundreds of African migrants in inhuman, degrading conditions-HRW says
London, Dec. 15, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Saudi Arabia is detaining hundreds of African migrants, mainly Ethiopians in squalid conditions in Riyadh, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday
Some detainees also told Human Rights Watch that they were held in extremely overcrowded rooms for extended periods, and that guards have tortured and beaten them with rubber-coated metal rods, leading to at least three allegations of deaths in custody between October and November.
In a report issued on Tuesday, the rights group said it had spoken to seven Ethiopians now being held, and to two Indians recently deported, all of whom said they had been kept in small rooms in a detention centre with up to 350 others.
The detainees said no measures were taken to minimise the spread of COVID-19, and some inside the facility had shown symptoms of the deadly virus.
In video footage published with the report, dozens of migrants could be seen sleeping in tightly packed rows, some in what looked to be a bathroom, next to piles of rubbish.
“Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s richest countries, has no excuse for detaining migrant workers in appalling conditions, in the middle of a health pandemic, for months on end,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at HRW.
The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The migrants at the centre, mostly from Ethiopia but also from other African or Asian countries, were being held pending deportation, most having been arrested by Saudi authorities because they did not hold valid residency permits.
Foreign workers, who form the backbone of Gulf economies, account for some 12.6 million of Saudi Arabia’s total population of 33.4 million, according to the latest available government data from 2018. Several million others live in the kingdom outside the law.