Saudi Arabia is Holding Migrants in Inhuman, Degrading Conditions

(Beirut) – A deportation center in Riyadh is holding hundreds of mostly Ethiopian migrant workers in conditions so degrading that they amount to ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said today. Detainees alleged to Human Rights Watch that they are 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. The Saudi authorities should immediately release the most vulnerable detainees and ensure that detention is only used as an exceptional measure of last resort. It should immediately end any torture and other ill-treatment, and ensure that detention conditions meet international standards.

“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 Human Rights Watch. “Video footage of people crammed together, allegations of torture, and unlawful killings are shocking, as is the apparent unwillingness of the authorities to do anything to investigate conditions of abuse and hold those responsible to account.”

Transcript

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s richest countries, is detaining thousands of migrant workers in appalling conditions. 

 

Human Rights Watch  identified a security complex in Riyadh where hundreds of mostly Ethiopian and some South Asian workers are being held without adequate food and shelter before being deported.

 

We heard some statements from those detained.

 

Ahmad from Oromia region, Ethiopia

Actor’s voice

The biggest problem is Covid. 400 people in one room and no social distancing. We only have three toilets. Many people are sick. I got sick. I have a bad headache.

 

Fammi from Oromia region, Ethiopia

Actor’s voice

The place is not clean. We cannot sleep properly. 180 people are very sick. We appealed to the prison to give us medication and instead of medication, we were beaten.

 

VOICEOVER

Detainees allege that guards have tortured and beaten them with rubber coated metal rods, leading to at least three deaths in custody.

 

Ahmad from Oromia region, Ethiopia

Actor’s voice

When we tell them our problems, they hit us. Five days ago, a man was beaten severely. He was taken and never came back.

 

Fammi from Oromia region, Ethiopia

Actor’s voice

They took one of my friends and he was beaten severely. And then, after five mintues, he was taken to a hospital and that’s where he died.

 

VOICEOVER

The Saudi authorities should immediately end the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and ensure that detention conditions meet international standards,  including by enabling safe social distancing in facilities to protect against contracting Covid-19.

 

It should also release the most vulnerable detainees and ensure that detention is only used as an exceptional measure of last resort.

 

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