Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia deporting Rohingya despite UN calls to give them refuge

Footage sent to MEE shows members of the stateless minority being sent to Bangladesh
Rohingya detainees had been handcuffed by Saudi immigration police ahead of their deportation to Bangladesh (MEE/Supplied)

Saudi Arabia has continued to deport Rohingya to Bangladesh despite calls from the United Nations to give members of the stateless minority refuge in the Gulf kingdom. 

Footage sent to Middle East Eye on Friday showed Rohingya who had been detained indefinitely by Saudi Arabia for several years, handcuffed and en route to Jeddah airport. 

The detained Rohingya can be seen on a bus in the middle of the Saudi desert, alongside other detainees of the Shumaisi detention centre, set for deportation. 

MEE could not confirm whether the other detainees inside the bus were also Rohingya. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Last month, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee condemned Saudi Arabia for deporting 13 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh. 

During a press conference in Bangladesh, Lee urged Riyadh to offer the stateless Rohingya sanctuary, instead of sending them to a third country. 

"India and Saudi Arabia must ensure that Rohingya within their borders are protected and that their status as refugees, unable to return to Myanmar, is recognised," Lee said, after a ten-day visit to the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh. 

She also criticised the Bangladeshi government for imprisoning 13 Rohingya men last year, following their forced deportation to Bangladesh by Saudi Arabia, despite coming from Myanmar.  

"I am dismayed by Saudi Arabia's recent deportation of 13 Rohingya to Bangladesh, where they have been arrested and charged with forging the passports that they used to travel to Saudi," Lee said at a press briefing in Dhaka. 

"The fair trial rights of these men should be fully upheld, and authorities must recall that this group also fled persecution in Myanmar." 

Passports via forged documents

Human rights groups and activists have said that hundreds of Rohingya had been detained indefinitely by Saudi Arabia.

Scores of them have resorted to obtaining passports from people smugglers, often via forged documents, following Myanmar's ban on members of their community obtaining Burmese passports. 

Many Rohingya locked up in the Shumaisi detention centre came to Saudi Arabia on Bangladeshi passports, while others entered on passports from different South Asian countries, including Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Nepal. 

Upon arrival, the refugees have their fingerprints taken and registered to the passport they used upon entry. This means scores of Rohingya have been registered on passports obtained via fake documents.  

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.