RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – A Saudi police crackdown targeting majority-migrant neighborhoods has led to the arrests of thousands of Ethiopians across the kingdom.
Both undocumented and documented Ethiopians have been picked up in the wave of arrests, which began on the night of 11 June.
Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia reached by Middle East Eye described indiscriminate arrests and spoke of friends being grabbed off the streets by uniformed officers, or being woken up in the middle of the night by police raids on their homes.
“The police say ‘we have orders to take away any Habesha’,” one resident of Jeddah told MEE, using a term used by some people to refer to Ethiopians. “They don’t give us reasons. They will stop anyone who looks Ethiopian.”
Police crackdowns on migrants in Saudi Arabia aren’t rare, although they are usually aimed at the country’s sizeable population of undocumented people, many of whom are Ethiopians. A similar crackdown in 2013 led to the arrest and deportation of some 100,000 Ethiopians.
But over the past 10 days, a considerable number of Ethiopians with legal residency papers were also among those rounded up.
Jeylan, who is of Ethiopian descent but was born in Riyadh, says he spent the weekend of 12-13 June behind bars after being grabbed from a cafe in the Saudi capital. For security reasons, interviewees for this story are identified solely by their given names.
Two days into the crackdown, Ethiopian diplomats announced that they had obtained the releases of 600 Ethiopians with valid residency papers who were rounded up in the holy city of Medina, and another 94 who were held in the port city of Jizan near the border with Yemen. But the numbers of detainees have swelled since.