Five Ethiopians die in Saudi deportation centre: report

Saudi soldiers ride at the back of an army truck
Saudi soldiers ride at the back of an army truck in the southern province of Jizan in 2009. AFP Photo

Riyadh, SA (AFP) — Five Ethiopians died in a crowded Saudi centre for deporting illegal immigrants, the Arab News reported Monday.

The five died in the deportation centre in the southern Red Sea port of Jizan of “asphyxiation due to overcrowding,” according to a local police official, the newspaper said.

Ethiopia’s consul in Jeddah Tekleab Kebede said he could not confirm the deaths, which occurred sometime this month, according to the report.

“We are following the case,” he told AFP by telephone.

Saudi officials could not be reached on the report, but it came during an intensified roundup of illegal immigrants and visa over-stayers, especially from east African countries, in Jeddah.

Thousands have been arrested and sent to deportation centres in the past three months, according to media reports.

On July 30, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees called on Riyadh to stop deporting Somali refugees and asylum-seekers to Mogadishu, which is enveloped in an intensifying civil war.

The UNHCR, which does not have access to the Saudi deportation camps, said Saudi Arabia had sent back nearly 2,000 Somalis during June and July, most of them women.

“UNHCR is deeply troubled by the reports of continuing deportations of Somali refugees and asylum seekers from Saudi Arabia to the conflict-stricken Somali capital,” said agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.

“UNHCR is urging the Saudi authorities to refrain from future deportations on humanitarian grounds,” she added.