A migrant has died and nine others have been wounded in a stampede during a riot at a Saudi detention centre in the west of the kingdom, police have said.
Police said on Monday that they had attempted to restore calm on Sunday evening at al-Shumaisi detention centre in the Red Sea city of Jeddah where undocumented migrants of various nationalities are held pending deportation.
Detainees “tried to cause chaos… resulting in damages to the centre,” Mecca police spokesman Commander Ati al-Qurashi told AFP news agency.
He did not elaborate on the nature of the disturbances but said that police “had to intervene” and that a migrant was killed and nine others wounded in a “stampede”.
The spokesman did not provide further details on the nationalities of the casualties, the number of migrants held at the deportation centre, or the progress made in their deportation procedures.
Frustration grows over Saudi deportations [File video] The Saudi migrants sweep has sparked violence before. In November, at least one Ethiopian and a Sudanese were killed in clashes between migrant workers protesting the crackdown and vigilante Saudis in the capital Riyadh. Similar clashes also broke out in Jeddah when police searched the area for migrants.
The deportations are part of a Saudi campaign to expel undocumented foreign workers after decades of lax immigration enforcement allowed migrants to take many low-wage jobs that the kingdom’s own citizens shunned. Saudi authorities, grappling with growing unemployment, now want those jobs for the kingdom’s citizens.
Police have been cracking down on undocumented migrants since the expiration in early November of a seven-month amnesty during which they had to regularise their status or leave the country.
Nearly a million migrants from various countries took advantage of the amnesty to leave voluntarily, while another four million were able to find employers to sponsor them, a legal requirement in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
The Saudi government says it has deported more than a quarter-million migrants since the government began enforcing its crackdown.
Around 170,000 of those are Ethiopians, most of whom never acquired visas, often taking perilous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen from where they cross illegally into the kingdom with the help of smugglers.
Human Rights Watch has criticised the conditions of detainees awaiting deportation in the kingdom. The rights group last month said more than 12,000 Somali migrants were held under “appalling conditions” before they were deported from Saudi Arabia.
The majority of foreign workers in the kingdom are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Egypt and Yemen.