Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor expressed its deep concern over the arrest campaign launched by the Saudi authorities against Ethiopian immigrants residing in the kingdom and the challenging conditions they experience in Saudi prisons.
The Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor said in a press release on Wednesday that the Saudi police began an arrest campaign last June, which targeted Ethiopian immigrants and their neighbourhoods. The Saudi authorities made no distinction between those with or without legal documents. They arrested hundreds from the streets, homes and cafés across the kingdom.
The Euro-Med Monitor clarified that the arrests took place in major cities and rural areas where the Saudi police used violence and racist phrases in their campaign, such as Al-Ahbash “the Abyssinians”, referring to the Ethiopians.
The arrests were accompanied by confiscating money, phones, jewellery and other belongings of some detainees.
The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor indicated that the most affected area was the “Kilo 8” area in Jeddah because it contains a large Ethiopian community. On June 15, Saudi police cars surrounded a building and blocked the neighbourhood. The police arrested several Ethiopian immigrants from inside the building after violently attacking them and prevented passers-by from taking pictures.
The Euro-Med Monitor collected testimonies from Ethiopian migrants who had one or more of their family members arrested in Jeddah. They said that the police violently stormed their houses, and randomly arrested men, women and children. The immigrants appealed to the Ethiopian Consulate in Jeddah to work quickly to release the detainees and secure their safe return home.
In a testimony to the Euro-Med Monitor team, the Ethiopian immigrant (A. T), 25 years and lives in the city of Jeddah, said that the Saudi police arrested his wife and his newborn child, who is no more than 30 days old and is holding them with hundreds of others in difficult conditions in a detention centre in the city, with no gestures of their release or even deportation to Ethiopia.”
In another testimony , (Z. A), the wife of one of the detained Ethiopian immigrants, said: “The police officers arrested my husband in front of our house in the city of Jeddah after they beat him and used racist language. I managed to contact him after more than a day, he told me that the conditions of the detention are very bad, as more than 40 detainees are crammed into a small cell and only given food once daily. They are attacked and humiliated by the guards if they ask for food or to go to the bathroom.”
“We don’t want to die because of these humiliating conditions. I appeal to the Ethiopian government to bring us back home as soon as possible”, she added.
The Euro-Med Monitor pointed out that two days after launching the campaign, Ethiopian diplomats announced that they were able to obtain the release of 600 Ethiopian detainees in Madinah who have valid legal documents, and 94 others detained in the city of Jazan by the authorities. However, the campaign continued with a significant rise in the number of detainees.
The arrest campaign against Ethiopians is not the first of its kind, as the Kingdom witnessed a similar event in 2013, which led to the arrest and deportation of about 100,000 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia. The police also carried out a campaign last September in which thousands of Ethiopians were detained and placed in different prisons across the country. One of them held about 16,000 detainees living in inhumane conditions that led to many deaths due to lack of nutrition, overcrowding and extreme heat, and assaults and beatings.
According to the International Organization for Migration, about 500,000 Ethiopians lived in Saudi Arabia when the authorities began its arrest campaigns and deportation against them in 2013. This was renewed in November 2017, and saw the deportation of 260,000 migrantsfrom May 2017 to March 2019.
The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor pointed out that the mass detention and deportation campaigns against Ethiopian migrants holding legal documents or without legal justification would exacerbate their already dire situation, especially if these campaigns are random.
The Euro-Med Monitor called on the Saudi authorities to stop their indiscriminate campaigns against Ethiopian migrants, immediately and unconditionally release all detainees and respect their rights guaranteed by relevant international laws.
The Euro-Med Monitor urged the Ethiopian government to intensify its cooperation with the Saudi government, follow up on the conditions of nationals in the Kingdom and ensure that they receive fair treatment and their human dignity is preserved. In addition, they must assist in providing legal support for detainees or workers who face legal problems in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.