Tuesday 02 March 2021
News ID: 86983
Publish Date: 27 January 2021 - 21:27
RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – Saudi Arabia has begun repatriating thousands of Ethiopians who have been held in detention centers that have been described as "hellish” and "squalid”.
Photos posted online by Ethiopian state media showed former detainees jubilantly walking off a plane that had arrived in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday.
The first batch of 296 returnees had been detained in the notorious Shumaisi detention center near Jeddah, which holds 16,000 Ethiopian migrants.
Nebiyu Tedla, Ethiopia’s deputy consul general in Jeddah, told the Telegraph that he hoped to gradually increase the number of repatriations.
"Overall, there are roughly 40,000 Ethiopian migrants ready to go back home,” said Tedla. "For now it will be 1,000 returnees per week. But hopefully, we will be given the green light to increase the numbers.”
Tedla added that detainees from the Jizan detention center, near the Saudi border with Yemen, would also be flown home.
Last year, a document leaked to the Telegraph showed that the Ethiopian government had tried to silence migrant workers who were exposing poor conditions inside Saudi detention centers.  
The documents, leaked from the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah, warned Ethiopians of "legal repercussions” if they continued to upload photos and videos from the detention centers on social media.
It warned migrants to stop sharing accounts of their abuse because it was causing "distress for families and the greater Ethiopian community”.
Detainees who spoke to Amnesty said they were chained together in pairs and forced to use their cell floors as toilets.
Among the detained were pregnant women and babies, with three detainees telling Amnesty they saw children who had died.

* Comment: