Saudi Arabia is going to deport scores of Rohingyas, held indefinitely by the kingdom, to Bangladesh, reports Middle East Eye (MEE), a London-based news portal covering events in the Middle East.
The Rohingyas, some of them having spent nearly five to six years in Saudi detention, were being prepared on Sunday for deportation at the Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah, it reported on Sunday.
Quoting Rohingya rights activists, journalist Areeb Ullah of the MEE tweeted yesterday that the Rohingyas were scheduled to board a Saudi Airlines flight at 5:00pm (Saudi time) yesterday and arrive in Bangladesh early today.
Many Rohingyas locked up in the Shumaisi detention centre went to Saudi Arabia on Bangladeshi passports, obtained via fake documents.
Contacted, Mujibur Rahman, counsellor at Bangladesh Consulate General in Jeddah, however, said they did not issue travel pass to any Rohingya.
“We issue outpass [travel pass] to those whose Bangladeshi citizenship could be verified. So, there is no question of Saudi Arabia deporting Rohingya,” he told The Daily Star over phone yesterday evening.
The MEE, however, says one of the videos sent to it shows a Rohingya detainee sitting down, filming secretly, as dozens of Rohingyas are lined up to be processed for removal in Shumaisi.
Some Rohingyas were also put in handcuffs after they attempted to resist their deportation to Bangladesh, according to voice notes sent to the MEE.
The man in the video, who is speaking Rohingya, said, “I’ve been here for the last five to six years; now they are sending me to Bangladesh. Please pray for me.”
Another recording sent to the MEE recounted the events that led up to Sunday’s forcible removal of the Rohingyas.
“They came to our cells in the middle of the night at 12:00pm, telling us to pack our bags and get ready for Bangladesh,” said a Rohingya detainee, who wished to remain anonymous.
“Now I am in handcuffs and being taken to a country I’m not from – I am a Rohingya, not Bangladeshi.”
Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist, condemned the Saudi deportations.
“If these Rohingya detainees are released in Saudi Arabia, they can support their families held in refugee camps in Bangladesh, instead of accepting their deportation to Bangladesh,” Lwin told MEE.
“They are not criminals to be held in handcuffs, and I am very sad to see them being treated like criminals by the Saudi authorities.
“I appeal to the Saudi government, as a Rohingya, not to deport anyone and release them as soon as possible.”
Commenting on what will happen to the deported Rohingyas, Lwin said, “Now they will be sent to refugee camps and will increase the number of refugees in Bangladesh.”
In October last year, Middle East Eye reported that Rohingya detainees were being prepared for deportation just days after Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Saudi Arabia.
Documents leaked to MEE confirmed testimony from detainees that forms from the Saudi interior ministry demanded a confirmation on the refugees’ “full mental health” before their deportation to Bangladesh.
Detainees said Rohingyas were “punched” in the chest by Saudi immigration police and forced to sign the documents.
Some Rohingyas had also come on passports from other South Asian countries, including Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Nepal.
The Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982. Deprived of basic rights and persecuted in Myanmar, they escaped to Bangladesh following various waves of violence since the 1980s. Since August 2017, over 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military campaign in Rakhine to Bangladesh.