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Saudi Arabia 'holding 16,000 Ethiopian migrants' in single detention facility Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia 'holding 16,000 Ethiopian migrants' in single detention facility

Date of publication: 16 September, 2020

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Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia allege they have been beaten and mistreated in Saudi prisons.
Dozens of prisons in Saudi Arabia are holding thousands of Ethiopian migrants, with one facility housing as many as 16,000 people, Ethiopia's Consul General in Jeddah has said.

Consul General Abdo Yassin said the crowded centre is in Al-Shumasi, near the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

"Jeddah has over 53 prisons. Ethiopians are held in every one of them," Yassin said in an interview with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. "If you take the one at Al Shumaisi…located around 60km from Jeddah, there are about 16,000 Ethiopians kept in the prison and the holding cells.”

Recent media reports have detailed the alleged conditions African migrants have endured in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom attempts to control its coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, the UK's The Daily Telegraph newspaper communicated with detainees at centres in Al-Shumasi and Jazan, a port city where satellite images show dozens of buildings being used as detention centres.

Migrants who spoke to the newspaper using smuggled phones alleged poor living conditions, and that beatings and suicide were rampant.

After their accounts were published, the migrants said they were stripped naken and beaten by prison guards while their rooms raided for smuggled phones, according to The Telegraph.

Saudi Arabia said earlier this month that it will investigate its detention centres following pressure from the UN and human rights groups, however, recent developments have dampened hopes for migrants held in the kingdom.

In August, a document showed that Riyadh and Addis Ababa had agreed to allow migrants to purchase their own tickets from Ethiopian Airlines for their return home - an unaffordable prospect for most of the migrants.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia cancelled the agreement, effectively leaving the detained Ethiopians with no route out of the kingdom.

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