Nigerian migrants returned from Saudi detention recount horror
Nigeria has repatriated 800 of its citizens who were stranded for months in inhumane conditions in Saudi Arabia due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The migrants were flown back to the capital Abuja, a Nigerian aviation ministry official said.
The Nigerians were economic migrants stuck in Saudi Arabia after being caught up in the coronavirus restrictions and needed assistance returning home.
The repatriation came after one group made a video which circulated on social media showing them in squalid conditions and calling for help.
"Many of you travelled expecting to return at a particular time but COVID-19 came in, and during this period, movements were restricted and that is how many of you were stranded," aviation ministry official Bolaji Akinremi said.
"Many of you went in search of greener pasture -- jobs and different experiences, you are back home with an opportunity to start another life."
"If you can ask so many of us here, this is what they are going to tell you, maybe some will tell you worse than what I said", recounted Mustapha Zubairu.
"Those that entered with valid documents are not supposed to be treated like this, even those that entered with Umrah documents, because we are all human beings. But they gathered us as animals, they maltreat us", he said.
The group of a total of 800 Nigerians were flown back on Thursday and Friday. The first group of 384 included 83 women and one infant.
The returnees were transported to a camp for Covid-19 screening and testing after which they will be quarantined for 14 days before reuniting with their families, officials said.
The detention of migrants in deplorable facilities in Saudi Arabia is a longstanding problem. In 2014, Ethiopian nationals in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, told Human Rights Watch that thousands of foreign workers were being held in makeshift detention facilities without adequate food and shelter, before being deported.
In 2019, Human Rights Watch identified approximately ten prisons and detention centers where migrants were held for various periods. In August 2020, Human Rights Watch identified three detention centers in Jizan and Jeddah province where thousands of Ethiopian migrants were being held in deplorable conditions since they were pushed from northern Yemen in April.