Poor conditions of immigration detention in Saudi-Arabia have been called out several times by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Reports of migrant trafficking and overcrowding in the country’s facilities are numerous.
In April, thousands of Ethiopians were expelled from Yemen as Houthi forces declared them “coronavirus carriers” (see our 4 August Yemen update). They were forced to the Saudi border where they waited for days without food or water, until Saudi Arabia allowed hundreds of them into the country. Immediately placed in detention, families were separated as the groups were divided between men and women.
HRW reports that two facilities, in al-Dayer and Jizan, are likely to be holding the Ethiopian migrants. After conducting several interviews with migrants in these centres, HRW describes the detention as “arbitrary and abusive.” The reports uniformly describe the “overcrowding, blocked and overflowing toilets, lack of beds and blankets, lack of medical care including prenatal care for those who were pregnant, inadequate food and water, and poor toilet facilities. They described serious skin problems they said were caused by the unhygienic conditions.” In a video published by HRW, the floor in al-Dayer detention centre is flooded due to the poor quality of the roof. Women are seen walking and sitting in the water as one of them mentions “there are people’s faeces everywhere.”
On 21 June, while confirming that there were no Covid-19 cases among prisoners, the Saudi Ministry of Interior announced that the government was working on establishing virtual communication channels between inmates and their families.
- D. Al-Khudair, “Saudi Arabia Enters Final Phase in Return to ‘New Normal,’” Arab News, 21 June 2020, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1692821/saudi-arabia
- Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopians Detained in Saudi Arabia After Being Expelled by Houthis in Yemen,” Youtube, 13 August 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=8tO1R-hHCCc&app=desktop
- Human Rights Watch, “Yemen: Houthis Kill, Expel Ethiopian Migrants,” 13 August 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/13/yemen-houthis-kill-expel-ethiopian-migrants