British newspaper, the Telegraph, published the images on Sunday depicting seemingly hundreds of men living in cramped conditions inside the prisons, which Saudi authorities ostensibly set up to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The photos show row upon row of men, who have stripped down to their undergarments to deal with the crippling heat, lying on concrete using makeshift pillows made of rolled up clothes to prop up their heads.
In one image that the newspaper chose not to publish, a boy of 16 was reportedly seen hanging from a window after having taken his own life, unable to continue living in the facility.
In another image, two men are seen with bruises stretching across their backs; the result of vicious assaults by guards, who also racially abuse them, according to the prisoners.
“It’s hell in here. We are treated like animals and beaten every day,” one man is quoted as saying.
They described widespread disease among those detained, as toilets flood and wastewater comes into contact with their living and eating areas.
Those who die are simply tossed out as if they were “trash”, the prisoners said.
Tens of thousands of people are said to have been caught up in Saudi raids targeting unauthorised migrants who are then housed in such camps pending deportation.
Similar facilities are believed to exist for female prisoners.
The Telegraph report follows one by the Guardian in early August, which described similar conditions at a camp in the western port city of Jeddah.
Prisoners at the al Shumaisi facility said they had been forced to drink water from toilets as they were left neglected by officials.
They said a number of those imprisoned had medical symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection but there was no way of knowing for sure as those who are sick are not given attention.
As with those the Telegraph quoted, prisoners said they were also given inadequate rations, which included a piece of bread and a serving of rice.
Riyadh has stepped up its efforts to round up migrants amid a push to end its reliance on foreign workers and purportedly stem the spread of Covid-19.
But even before these recent cases came to light, the country has faced accusations of inhumane treatment of migrants.
More than 12 million migrant workers live in Saudi Arabia, filling positions in a number of industries but most taking up unskilled and service jobs that ordinary Saudis are unwilling to do.
A system of ‘sponsorship’ known as ‘kafala’ leaves workers open to exploitation and abuse by tying their residence in the country to a specific employer, who has power over the employee’s right to exit the country and change to another employer.
Human Rights Watch says: “Domestic workers, predominantly women, faced a range of abuses including overwork, forced confinement, non-payment of wages, food deprivation, and psychological, physical, and sexual abuse without the authorities holding their employers to account.”
Saudi efforts to combat illegal employment have focused more on workers than those who employ them.
This has led to the round-up of hundreds of thousands of people, with more than half a million illegal residents approved for deportation by authorities.
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