SA: Pitiful Conditions at Migrant Detention Centres

Saudi authorities are concealing rampant abuses and pitiful conditions at migrant detention centres while continuing to arrest thousands of African and Yemeni migrants, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Ethiopian migrants awaiting deportation said Saudi authorities have conducted mass searches of the centres, confiscating phones and any devices that could be used to relay images of their suffering to the outside world. “When they would find a phone, they would beat up the owner with batons,” said Semir, an Ethiopian migrant being held at a deportation centre in Riyadh.

The sources said the crackdown was an attempt to prevent their conditions from being broadcast to the world during Ramadan, which would risk criticism and uproar in the Muslim world during the holy month.

Police have also ordered people set for deportation to sign non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from talking to journalists about their experiences.

The number of Ethiopian detainees held at various migrant detention centres has swollen in recent months. In an attempt to ease the burden, Saudi authorities reached an agreement with Ethiopia in March to fly out at least 100,000 Ethiopians, many of whom were detained in waves of anti-migrant crackdowns last year.

Ethiopians held in the centres have told MEE that they are given little to eat and are held for months in putrid, overcrowded rooms.

“People are going mad here. There is little food and many of us haven’t been outdoors in almost nine months,” said Nebil, a detainee in Riyadh. “We used to get a piece of bread three times a day. Since Ramadan, we get it only once, at night.”

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