Ethiopian migrants held in Saudi Arabia call it 'hellish'

The Ethiopian migrant spoke on a smuggled phone, afraid to give his name, in the dirty cell of Saudi Arabia. ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP).

Around 300 compatriots are jailed, he added.

And nobody knows whether they will be returned home by the government of Ethiopia.

'With sewage pouring from a neighboring bathroom, we are detained in an incredibly barbaric state.

We want to go back home but no one supports us, "he said to the Associated Press in a detention center in Riyada, outside the capital of Saudi Arabia." We want to get back home.

"We are every day battered and our only fault in the foreign world was to search for a better life."

Further detail has come out of the squalid prison conditions that thousands of Ethiopian migrants – men , women and children — have enjoyed this year, through coronavirus fears, being hunted across the border from Yemen to Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International's new report on Friday describes broad abusses in detention facilities in Saudi Europe, including beatings and electrocutions.

Detainees identified themselves as chained in pairs and required to use cell floors as toilets.

"The condition is so dire, threatened by death and illness, that at least two people have tried to take their own lives," says Marie Forestier in the paper.

In these appalling circumstances, pregnant mothers, babies and young children are held, and three detained people claim they heard about the dead children.' "

The abuse underlines one of the world's most common and hazardous migrant paths.

The Saudi administration didn't respond right away.

After a ride from Somalia or Djibouti to the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden, thousands of Ethiopians cross over every year through Saudi Arabia, in pursuit of a better existence, through conflict-tornYemen.

In Northern Yemen, Amnesty International reported that thousands of Ethiopian migrants raised money to compensate for their journey to Saudi Arabia.

"When the pandemic intensified from COVID-19, the Houthi authorities started to request migrants to go to their borders, where they were allegedly trapped in the fire between Saudi and Houthi armies," the new study states.

About 2,000 Ethiopians are stuck on the Yemen side of the frontier with little food , water or health care according to the International Organization for Migration.

Migrants now complain they are kept in situations that endanger their lives.

"I wouldn't have left my country if I knew it would wait for me," another migrant who was held in custody told the AP.

"In the past, I had such suicidal thinking.

Especially in those hot days it is hard to to bear since we have no air conditioning.

And whenever we complain, they beat us with electric cords.

And both our money and mobile phones were seized.

He claimed that his residential card was expired 9 months earlier. He said he was imprisoned.

"Now what I want is to go back to Ethiopia, but for now it's only a fantasy," he said.

The inmates talked out of concern for their welfare on terms of anonymity.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated their repatriation by claiming that the Ethiopians had no quarantine capabilities to cope with too many people's return at one time.

The AP was told that up to 16,000 Ethiopians are supposed to live in Saudi prisons by Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Relations, TSION Teklu.

She said that since April some 4,000 have been returned.

"We are currently working towards repatriating 2000 more migrants, taking around 300 migrants per week," she added, adding that in recent years Ethiopia repatriated around 400,000.

"The problem is compounded by the repatriation of some of our citizens.""

"When quarantine spaces remain a big challenge, other governments and donors must help Ethiopia expand the room required to ensure that migrants will exit such vicious circumstances as soon as possible," said Forestier.

"A persistent unlawful imprisonment and harassment of a thousand of civilians can not be explained by nothing, not even by a pandemic."