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16 Dec 2020

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh detention centre allegedly holding hundreds of migrant workers in appalling conditions & subject to ill-treatment, say HRW

Human Rights Watch has released a new report into the detention of mostly Ethiopian and South Asian migrant workers in Riyadh in conditions amounting to ill-treatment by the authorities. The report comes months after HRW released information identifying three detention centres holding thousands of migrant workers in August 2020.

Interviewees told HRW they were being kept in cramped, unsanitary rooms with hundreds of other migrants where they had been kept for months - two men reported to HRW they had been detained for over a year. They have only been provided with unclean blankets and video evidence shows cramped rooms where hundreds of men lie on top of one another due to the lack of space. COVID-19 was cited as a a key concern by many migrants who state there are virtually no measures in place to curb the spread of the disease. Sanitation facilities are also lacking, with minimal bathroom and washing facilities.

Six of nine interviewees told HRW that they had witnessed guards beating workers so severely they were taken from the detention room and did not return. In one case an Ethiopian migrant witnessed the immediate deaths of two detainees from their injuries and a third died two hours later.

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. 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.
Nadia Hardman, HRW refugee and migrant rights researcher
Saudi Arabia is holding migrants in inhuman, degrading conditions (HRW)