Human rights group voices concern over Saudi treatment of migrant workers
By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human rights campaigners voiced concerns on Sunday that undocumented migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are being detained in squalid conditions, beaten and deported to countries where their lives could be at risk in a crackdown on foreign workers.
Saudi authorities began a nationwide campaign in 2013 to deport foreigners working illegally or outside of sponsorship rules as part of labor market reforms aimed at reducing unemployment among its own citizens.
The move also came as Britain and the United States raised alleged cases of forced labor among some nine million migrant workers - of which two million are estimated to be undocumented - in the conservative Muslim state of 28 million people.
But the campaign to identify and deport irregular migrant workers has raised concerns about their treatment, with the UK government urging Riyadh to work with countries and specialist agencies to manage the return and resettlement of migrants.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its report that dozens of workers who were deported to Somalia and Yemen reported receiving little food or water, no medical care and being regularly beaten while detained.
"There were 300 people in the same jail cell, one on top of another," Nagi, a 57-year-old Yemeni from Aden, told HRW.
A series of emails, phone calls and text messages to Saudi officials in Riyadh and to the Saudi Embassy in London over four days were not returned for comment.
HRW said undocumented migrants are not allowed to challenge their deportation or apply for asylum, leaving them powerless to avoid being returned to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened, Continued...