Saudi Arabian authorities deported a number of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh last week after lining them up at the Shumaisi detention center in Jeddah. This happened days after the Indian administration repatriated members of the community, leading to criticism from activists over the issue of asylum and other rights of refugees.
“Please pray for me… I have been here [in Saudi Arabia] for the last five to six years, now they [authorities] are sending me to Bangladesh. I am a Rohingya, not Bangladeshi,” one of the refugees who shot a video at the airport, stated.
Another refugee claimed that policemen came to their cells in the middle of the night, telling them to pack their bags and get ready for Bangladesh. “They put handcuffs on us and then [asked] us to wait,” another refugees added. The Middle East Eye reported that the immigration police punched many detainees in chest.
The refugees who were locked up inside the detention center reportedly traveled to Saudi Arabia on Bangladeshi passports, having successfully obtained fake documents. Others had reportedly entered from Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and India.
However, rights defenders say that the refugees need to be immediately released from detention camps in Saudi Arabia so that a conducive atmosphere can be created to enable them to support their families who are also living in asylum in Bangladesh. “By deporting them right now, the Saudi authorities are making things worse for these Rohingyas who remain vulnerable as far their status of prosecution goes,” they said.
Last year in October, when Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina visited Saudi Arabia, there was speculation of preparations being made to send the Rohingyas back to camps in Bangladesh.
At present, more than 1,000 Rohingyas are languishing inside different detention centers in violation of immigration rules in Saudi Arabia. Whereas before 2011, those who identified themselves as Rohingyas were given residency permit, after 2011, the situation worsened with Rohingyas getting debarred from obtaining permits.