African migrants locked up in Saudi coronavirus centres: Report

An investigation by the British newspaper Sunday Telegraph has revealed hundreds of African migrants locked up in coronavirus detention centers in Saudi Arabia in terrible conditions.

The investigation, released on Sunday, revealed photos taken by migrants on their cellphones showing dozens of emaciated men lying on the ground in several rows in small rooms with screened windows.

“It’s hell here. We are treated like animals and beaten every day,” Abebe, an Ethiopian detained in one of the centers for more than four months, told the Sunday Telegraph.

Other migrants said they were beaten with power cords, as guards hurled racist slurs at them.

At least one teenager committed suicide by hanging himself, the newspaper reported.

“Photos emerging from detention centers in southern Saudi Arabia show authorities in the region subject migrants from the Horn of Africa to squalid, overcrowded and dehumanizing conditions with no regard for their safety or dignity,” Adam Coogle, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East, was quoted by the newspaper.

“The squalid detention centers in southern Saudi Arabia are well below international standards. For a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia, there is no excuse for holding migrants in such deplorable conditions.”

The newspaper was able to geolocate two of the centers – one is in Al Shumaisi, near the holy city of Mecca, while the other is in Jazan, a port city near Yemen.

Others are believed to be home to thousands of Ethiopians.

In March, the government of Saudi Arabia expelled nearly 3,000 Ethiopian migrant workers as it struggled to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition, 200,000 additional migrants were also to be deported, but were instead arrested in various towns of the oil-rich kingdom and were left in squalid conditions in detention centers.

Others are African refugees from war-torn Yemen.

“We died here,” said one migrant. “Everyone is sick here. Everyone has something.”

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