DUBAI, Dec.15 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia detains hundreds of migrants, mostly Ethiopians, in squalid conditions in Riyadh, Human Rights Watch said, citing some saying they had been tortured or beaten, and at least three had died since October.
In a report released on Tuesday, the human rights group said it spoke last month with seven Ethiopians currently detained and two recently deported Indians, all of whom said they were held in small rooms. in a detention center with up to 350 others. .
Some of the detainees said they were tortured or beaten by guards with metal rods covered with rubber. Two said they had been detained for over a year. Inmates said no action had been taken to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and that some inside the facility had shown symptoms of the virus.
In video footage released with the report, dozens of migrants slept in tight rows, some in what looked like a bathroom, next to piles of rubbish.
“Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world, has no excuse to detain migrant workers in appalling conditions, in the midst of a health pandemic, for months,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at HRW.
The Saudi government’s media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Migrants from the center, mainly from Ethiopia but also from other African and Asian countries, were detained pending deportation, most having been arrested by Saudi authorities because they did not hold valid residence permits.
Foreign workers, who form the backbone of the Gulf economies, make up some 12.6 million of Saudi Arabia’s total population, or 33.4 million, according to the latest government data available from 2018. Several million others live in the kingdom outside the law.
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