According to a report published Friday by Amnesty International, at least three people have died in detention centers in Saudi Arabia where thousands of Ethiopian immigrants are held in conditions “of unimaginable cruelty”.
The non-governmental organization called on Riyadh to release the migrants and facilitate their return to their country of origin in coordination with the Ethiopian authorities.
“Thousands of Ethiopian migrants who have left their homes in search of a better life have faced unimaginable cruelty everywhere,” said Marie Forrester, refugee and migrant rights researcher and consultant at Amnesty International.
Forrester also urged Saudi authorities to: “Immediately release all arbitrarily detained migrants and work to improve their conditions of detention before more lives are lost.”
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 500,000 Ethiopians resided in Saudi Arabia before the launch of a security campaign against irregular migrants in 2017.
Since then, Saudi authorities have deported 10,000 Ethiopians a month, until Ethiopia this year asked for deportations to be suspended due to the spread of the coronavirus.
The IOM has documented the presence of nearly half a million Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, before authorities in the kingdom decided to launch a campaign against illegal immigrants in 2017.
Read: Hundreds of African migrants ‘left for dead’ in ‘hellish’ Saudi deportation centers
In August, The telegraph published interviews with immigrants in Saudi Arabia, along with photos and videos showing detention centers with poor sanitary conditions.
In its report, Amnesty International condemned the exposure of migrants to: “Harsh treatment by the Saudi authorities, as detainees were handcuffed in pairs and forced to use their cell floors as toilets, in addition to being held 24 hours a day in unbearably overcrowded cells.”
According to the report, two of the detainees confirmed seeing the bodies of three victims, an Ethiopian, a Yemeni and a Somali, in Al-Dayer detention center in Jizan governorate. All of those interviewed by the organization said they were aware of the deaths that had occurred.
16,000 Ethiopians have been held in these detention centers this year, but the number has decreased, according to Ethiopian authorities.
Ethiopia had planned to evacuate 2,000 detained migrants by mid-October, but Addis Ababa is careful not to upset Saudi Arabia, which is a major investor in Ethiopia.
An Ethiopian migrant recounts France Media Agency (AFP) last month, using a cell phone smuggled into the detention center, about the inhuman living conditions detainees endure in overcrowded cells, living with contagious diseases and receiving small portions of food, encouraging many to commit suicide.
Three informed migrants AFP that Ethiopian diplomats visited them and ordered them to stop complaining about their conditions of detention.