Detained, Beaten, Deported. Saudi Abuses against Migrants during Mass Expulsions (vom 10.06.2015),
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[10. Jun 2015]

Detained, Beaten, Deported. Saudi Abuses against Migrants during Mass Expulsions

Om 10. May 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on Saudi Arabian policy against migrants. With raids in homes and working places, mass controls on check points the authorities are hunting undocumented migrant workers. Hundreds of thousands were catched during the first year and a half of this violent and racist operation.


On November 4, 2013, the first day of the Islamic New Year, Saudi police and labor authorities launched a nationwide campaign to locate, detain, and deport undocumented migrant workers. The campaign followed an April 2013 amendment to the labor law that empowered police and labor authorities to enforce labor code provisions against undocumented workers, including detention and deportation for working for someone other than a designated employer.

The campaign has consisted of raids on neighborhoods and businesses, and ID checks at checkpoints. It resulted in the detention of 20,000 workers in the first two days alone, and continued in phases over the next year-and-a-half. In April 2014, Saudi interior ministry officials confirmed they had deported 427,000 undocumented foreigners in the course of the previous six months. On December 14, 2014, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported that Saudi Arabia had detained 108,345 migrant workers across the country and deported 90,450 of them over the previous 40 days. Saudi authorities announced a new round of detentions and deportations of undocumented foreigners during the first quarter of 2015, and said on March 23 that Saudi Arabia had deported 300,000 people over the previous five months, an average of nearly 2,000 per day.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 60 migrant workers for this report, many of whom described serious abuses during the process of detention and deportation, including attacks by security forces and private citizens, inadequate detention conditions, and abuse in detention prior to deportation.

The detention and deportation campaign precipitated a wave of unrest in urban areas populated by undocumented workers, triggering violent attacks on migrants by Saudi police and citizens, especially during November 2013. The most violent attacks occurred on the evening of November 9 in areas around the Manfouha neighborhood of southern Riyadh, where Ethiopian residents make up a majority of residents. Manfouha residents told Human Rights Watch that at least three Ethiopian workers were killed during these attacks.

Ethiopian migrant workers told Human Rights Watch soon afterwards that they saw groups of people they assumed to be Saudi citizens armed with sticks, swords, machetes, and firearms, attack foreign workers. One worker said, "On the first night it was both the police and shabab ["young men" in Arabic] who were attacking and beating Ethiopians. We went out of our homes to protect them but the police were there and didn't let us to do anything."

Other migrants detailed serious abuses during detention, including inadequate food and sanitation and in some cases beatings by guards. One deported Yemeni worker described conditions that he endured after turning himself in to police in Jeddah in November 2013. "When they started deporting people I was working as a day laborer in Jeddah," he said. "I was afraid because of the deportation campaign and turned myself in to go back. They kept me in Buraiman Prison for 15 days. Sometimes they brought food but it was very little and people fought over it. There was no medical care. Sometimes they slapped us with belts."

Another Yemeni worker whom authorities deported in November 2013 after police caught him working illegally in the southern Saudi town of Jizan told Human Rights Watch that he spent one night in a deportation center before Saudi officials sent him back to Yemen by bus through the al-Tuwal border crossing. He said: "The jail conditions were bad; there are no clean bathrooms and no separation barrier so we could see others using the toilet. They took the batteries from our phones and our SIM cards, but some people refused to give them over and the guards beat them with cables."

Following deportation, many migrants returned to their home countries destitute and with no means to buy food or pay for transportation to their home areas due at times to Saudi Arabia's arbitrary confiscation of their personal property, which authorities refused to allow them to take. Some Somali deportees interviewed by Human Rights Watch indicated that they faced threats from both the militant rebel group al-Shabaab or Somali government forces. At least two Somalis stated that following their deportations they were harassed by Somali government officials who suspected that they had links with al-Shabaab based on their place of origin.

None of the workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were permitted an opportunity to legally challenge their deportations, and Saudi Arabia has not established an asylum system whereby migrants could apply to prevent their forced return to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

Saudi Arabia should immediately halt mass expulsions, ensuring that removals are based on an individual assessment of the circumstances of the person being removed, including any international protection needs. It should also make further reforms to its labor sector that would serve to prevent thousands of foreign workers who enter the country from becoming undocumented. Most importantly, Saudi Arabia should grant workers the ability to change jobs and abolish the exit visa requirement, which obliges workers to obtain employer permission to leave the country, a requirement that has been shown in practice to expose them to exploitation and abuse by employers.

The Saudi government should sign and ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention, enact refugee law consistent with international standards, and establish fair asylum procedures for foreign nationals who may be at risk of persecution in their home countries. In the meantime, it should allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to exercise its mandate to determine the refugee status of asylum seekers and facilitate durable solutions for those recognized as refugees, including, where appropriate, integration in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has legitimate authority to deport undocumented migrants but should treat them with dignity at all times and give those who might fear persecution upon return the opportunity to lodge asylum claims and consider any other protection needs.

Saudi interior ministry officials should take immediate steps to improve conditions in the kingdom's jails and detention centers for migrant workers facing deportation, and conduct prompt investigations into allegations of mistreatment of migrants in detention during the 2013-14 labor crackdown.

Read the full report :: here as pdf.

Source: ::, 10. May 2015