Saudi to deport scores of Rohingya refugees ‘against their will’ to Bangladesh

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Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during her four-day visit to Saudi Arabia in October (SPA)

Rohingya detainees say they can prove their identities to the Saudis with their old Burmese ID cards

Saudi Arabia is planning to persuasively evacuate scores of Rohingya evacuees "without wanting to" to Bangladesh subsequent to detaining them for an uncertain period inside a Saudi confinement focus, activists and detained Rohingya disclosed to Middle East Eye. 

The arranged expulsions come after Saudi Arabia requested Bangladesh to reclaim in excess of a hundred Rohingya who went ahead Bangladeshi international IDs to the Gulf kingdom - in the midst of fears that Bangladesh is repatriating Rohingya to Myanmar. 

Those being set up for expelling from Saudi Arabia have revealed to Middle East Eye they have Burmese ID cards to demonstrate they are Rohingya from Myanmar - a nation more than 700,000 of them have fled since August 2017 to maintain a strategic distance from mistreatment from the armed force - and not Bangladeshi. 

“What will we do when we got to Bangladesh? We have no other choice but to kill ourselves."

- Abdul Ghulam, Rohingya detainee inside Shumaisi detention centre

The prisoners had started to be prepared for expulsion to Bangladesh only days after a visit to Saudi Arabia by Bangladesh's executive, Sheik Hasina, in mid-October when she met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed receptacle Salman. 

Amid Hasina's four-day visit to Saudi Arabia, MBS lauded Dhaka's promise to put resources into Bangladesh and called for more grounded military participation. Salman additionally commended Bangladesh's reaction to the Rohingya emergency. 

Beaten into signing their own deportation orders

Numerous Rohingya exiles came to Saudi Arabia on international IDs got by means of phony archives from a few South Asian nations - including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan - in an offer to escape abuse in Myanmar. Most entered Saudi Arabia on Umrah journey visas quite a while back. 

Be that as it may, in the wake of being made up for lost time in a progression of Saudi migration assaults, the Rohingya were in this way taken to the Shumaisi detainment focus in Jeddah, where they admitted to going to the nation on phony international IDs. 

Individuals from the oppressed minority depicted dread and frenzy inside Shumaisi, as Saudi movement police arranged to persuasively expel the Rohingya prisoners to Bangladesh. 

Rohingya threatened with deportation to Bangladesh have Burmese documents proving their identity (Supplied)

A few Rohingya prisoners disclosed to Middle East Eye they were "punched" in the chest by Saudi migration police and compelled to sign reports announcing they had "full psychological wellness" to agree to be sent to Bangladesh. 

"The structures were at that point finished by the [Bangladeshi] international safe haven and Saudi migration police," one prisoner, who wished to stay unknown, told MEE. 

"They simply required our unique finger impression and punched me in the chest to get it. We would prefer not to go to Bangladesh and live in the outcast camps. What future do we have there?" 

Records spilled to MEE affirmed declaration from prisoners that shapes from the Saudi Interior Ministry requested an affirmation on the evacuees' "full emotional well-being" before their extradition to Bangladesh. 

The Saudis at that point gave these structures - with the Rohingya's unique finger impression and photograph - to neighborhood Bangladeshi ambassadors situated in Saudi Arabia, who at that point gave the Rohingya Bangladeshis travel records, as per the prisoners in Shumaisi and reports displayed to MEE. 

The Bangladeshi travel archives are left clear with just a mugshot of the prisoner connected at the base and marked later by Bangladesh's representatives entrusted with handling the extradition.

Documents that Rohingya were forced to sign against their will according to detainees and activists (Supplied)

Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and the foreign minister did not respond to requests for comment. The Saudi embassy in the UK was also approached for comment but did not respond. 

The anonymous detainee stopped speaking to MEE following several days of communication. Fellow inmates fear he has already been deported to Bangladesh.

Other detainees also told MEE that Saudi immigration police had been processing five to ten people daily in preparation for their deportation since mid-October.

Mobile phones that were previously allowed inside the detention centre had also begun to be confiscated by the Saudi immigration police inside Shumaisi. The phones had been used by Rohingya detainees to communicate with each other across various holding cells in the Shumaisi detention centre, which houses 32,000 undocumented workers from across the world.


Rohingya activists and family member estimate that hundreds of Rohingya who had come on fake passports were detained indefinitely in the Shumaisi detention centre. MEE could not independently verify the exact number of Rohingya detainees.

‘What will we do?’

In October, Bangladeshi authorities said it planned to repatriate thousands of Rohingya refugees from its refugee camps to Myanmar. The UN has condemned the move as it fears the genocide against Rohingya inside Myanmar is ongoing.

Abdul Ghulam, who changed his name for security reasons, is another Rohingya detainee in the Shumaisi detention centre.

While Rohingya detainees face a health crisis in the detention centre, other detainees have voiced concern that their deportation to Bangladesh would lead to their eventual repatriation to Myanmar.

"Before we would always worry about our families [in the refugee camps in Bangladesh], but now we are worried about being taken to Bangladesh," said Ghulam.

"That's why we are very upset and living under even more tension. The situation is impacting our health. Eating the two pieces of bread they give us is too difficult to swallow because we have been here for so long in the hope of being freed.

“What will we do when we got to Bangladesh? We have no other choice but to kill ourselves."

Children and women are among the dozens of Rohingya detainees inside Shumaisi detention centre (Supplied)

Ghulam also told MEE that representatives from other countries had rejected the detained Rohingya’s pleas for help, on the grounds that they used fake documents to get their passports to gain passage to Saudi Arabia.

The only country to take the Rohingya after years of negotiations, however, was Bangladesh, according to activists.

Nay San Lwin, who advocates for Rohingya around the world, said that problems for Rohingya occurred after 2010 when the Saudis began using a fingerprint system to register tourists and migrants coming to Saudi Arabia.

“Before when they claimed that they were Rohingya, they got a special permit and stay permit via verification from local Rohingya groups who visited the detention centre,” Lwin recalls.

“The Saudi government should seek to work with Rohingya community groups to verify them, not deport them against their will. Most of them are educated and have grade ten education and speak the Burmese language.”

Saudis urged to halt deportations

Saudi Arabia has no official asylum or refugee policy and is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which recognises refugees' rights to work, be given travel documents and have freedom of movement.


The Gulf kingdom is said to have the largest population of Rohingya Muslims outside of South Asia. In 1973, during the rule of King Faisal, and following an upsurge in communal violence inside Myanmar, the Gulf kingdom granted Rohingya asylum.

Saudi Arabia must immediately halt all forced deportations of Rohingya to Bangladesh and allow them to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia

- Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch

This continues to be official policy for Rohingya born in the kingdom to generations previously offered residency permits.

Rights groups condemned plans to deport scores of Rohingya to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia, urging the Saudi authorities to halt the deportations.

“Rohingya in Saudi detention are trapped between the spectre of remaining in jail indefinitely or deportation to a third country where they would be forced to live in very difficult conditions,” Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Middle East Eye.

“Saudi Arabia must immediately halt all forced deportations of Rohingya to Bangladesh and allow them to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia.”

Amina Zoubairi, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, told MEE that it was aware “of potential deportation of Rohingya from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

“We have approached Saudi authorities who have said that there is no deportation of Rohingya from the kingdom, and added that deportation plans target migrants from other nationalities who have entered the country irregularly and claim to be Rohingya in order to benefit from the Saudi authorities’ special treatment towards this group,” said Zoubairi.