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The New Arab Staff

African migrants 'left to die' in dehumanising Saudi detention camps, amid the coronavirus epidemic

The Sunday Telegraph said it received graphic images of migrants held in detention [Getty-file photo]

Date of publication: 31 August, 2020

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Saudi Arabia's detention centres designed to contain the coronavirus have come under scrutiny for alleged inhumane conditions.
African migrants in Saudi Arabia are locked in dehumanising conditions inside detention camps "waiting to die", part of the kingdom's strategy to stop the spread of coronavirus, a report by The Sunday Telegraph has said.

"Plenty of inmates are suicidal or suffering from mental illnesses as a result of living this for five months," one prisoner was quoted as saying.

The newspaper said it received graphic mobile phone images of migrants held in detention, including photos that show dozens of emancipated men suffering from the heat in small packed rooms.

One disturbing photo showed what appeared to be a corpse wrapped in a blanket left in the middle of the room, the report said.

In photos published by The Sunday Telegraph, two migrants revealed scars on their back which they say are the results of beatings endured at the centre.

"It's hell in here. We are treated like animals and beaten every day," an Ethiopian migrant identified as Abebe said.

"My only crime is leaving my country in search of a better life. But they beat us with whips and electric cords as if we were murderers."

The report drew outrage among human rights activists and observers on social media.

"Extremely appalling: #SaudiArabia, an OPEC member, is holding dozens of #Ethiopian migrants in unspeakably inhumane conditions," Euro-Med Monitor, a human rights monitor said in a tweet.

The virus was first detected in Saudi Arabia in March, leading Riyadh to take precautionary measures. Migrants, who are often housed in overcrowded conditions, were targeted fearing they would spread the virus.

According to the report, around 3,000 Ethiopian migrants were deported from Saudi Arabia early in April. A leaked UN memo reviewed by the outlet said 200,000 more migrants were to be deported.

Migrants slated for deportation over five months ago were instead "left to die" in detention centres after international pressure mounted over Riyadh's decision, The Sunday Telegraph found.

Saudi Arabia has now recorded over 315,000 coronavirus cases in total, while the majority of confirmed cases have already recovered.

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