Ethiopian Migrants Are Stuck in Hell Amidst Saudi Arabia Aggression on Yemen
Story Code : 892108
Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants, who are merely seeking job opportunities across the Arab peninsula, have literally been caught in the aggression caused by Saudi Arabia on Yemen since 2014.
“What these people have gone through is unimaginable. Aside from conditions they are in now, they were shot out by rockets … that pushed from where they were living in northern Yemen,” says Nadia Hardman, a leading Human Rights Watch [HRW] researcher, who has conducted in-depth interviews with the Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Ethiopia.
“[They were] shot at again [by Saudi border guards], so their friends and families were killed at the border and then taken to these detention facilities. So the psychological impact is going to be enormous,” Hardman said according to TRT World.
“These people are caught between two combatants neither of which gives a damn about people’s lives in my assessment,” says Abdi Samatar, professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a research fellow at the University of Pretoria. Samatar is originally from Somalia.
Saudi security forces have been attacking unarmed African migrants, primarily Ethiopians. While she could not confirm it, aside from Ethiopians, there might be other nationals like Somalis and Bangladeshis in Saudi detention centers.
“The tragedy is that the Saudi regime and its operations in the south have been totally ruthless rather than providing some sanctuary for people, who were expelled and had nowhere to go, until they expatriate to their home countries,” Samatar said.
But even after tens of thousands of Ethiopians were able to enter Saudi Arabia, their tragedy has continued as they are being held in inhumane conditions.
“I mean it’s horrifying,” says Hardman, indicating that the HRW has, for a number of years, been documenting the treatment of migrants in Saudi detention centers.
“All the detention centers they use are pretty uniform with overcrowded conditions, limited to or no access to toilet facilities. Overflowing toilets or toilets don’t work. Inadequate food. People are given a piece of bread three times a day,” the researcher recounts her observations.
“[People are] forced to use the piping in the toilets as a water source to drink from. People describing having to sleep, eat, and go to the toilet in the same place,” Hardman says.
Those with skin problems from the unsanitary conditions also have no access to medical care.
“People complain that they were beaten invariably. Women, pregnant women and children are in the same facilities,” she explains. In one of the detention centers, there was no roof, allowing rainwater to flood over the facility, she says.
Many migrants have not been able to change their clothes in six months because Saudi authorities confiscated their belongings at the border, the researcher says.
“They are desperate. The story is so moving and compelling, but desperation that people feel is difficult to translate into words because they see no hope. Nothing has changed,” she says.
According to The Telegram report, the desperation that Hardman describes has led to some suicides.
Despite the Saudi promise of an inquiry over the mistreatment of the migrants across the kingdom, where 16,000 Ethiopians have been held in just one of the facilities, according to the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah, Hardman has seen no evidence of any investigation at all.
She also assesses there has been no real change in the conditions with which the migrants currently live. “I understand from detainees that the situation remains the same,” she says.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, she thinks the Saudis have resources to address the problems associated with their treatment of migrants across their detention centers.
“It’s inexplicable. They have resources. It makes no sense,” she says.