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Source: European Parliament 2

B9‑0326/2020

European Parliament resolution on the situation of Ethiopian migrants in detention centres in Saudi Arabia

(2020/2815(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to its previous resolutions on Saudi Arabia, in particular those of 11 March 2014 on Saudi Arabia, its relations with the EU and its role in the Middle East and North Africa, of 12 February 2015 on the case of Raif Badawi, of 8 October 2015 on the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, of 31 May 2018 on the situation of women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and of 25 October 2018 on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and those of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen and of 30 November 2017 and 4 October 2018 on the situation in Yemen,

 having regard to its resolution of 3 May 2018 on the protection of children in migration (2018/2666(RSP)),

 having regard to its resolution of 5 April 2017 on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU External Action (2015/2342(INI)),

 having regard to its report of 17 September 2020 on Arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP,

 having regard to the statement by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), 15 September 2020, “Urgent Action Needed to Address Conditions in Detention in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: IOM Director General”,

 having regard to the United Nation General Assembly Resolution on Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, 19 December 2018,

 having regard to Rule 144 of its Rules of Procedure.

A. whereas since early March 2020, thousands of migrant workers, mainly Ethiopians, including pregnant women and children, are arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia in horrific conditions after being forcibly expelled from northern Yemen by Houthi authorities; whereas they reportedly crossed the border under crossfire between Saudi and Houthi forces; whereas a reported 2,000 migrants remain stranded on the Yemeni side of the border under dire conditions and fully deprived of access to basic needs;

B. whereas these migrant workers were violently apprehended by Saudi forces and detained in the al-Dayer  detention centre before being transferred to Jizan, Jeddah and Mecca prisons; whereas these migrants  are being held in severely overcrowded cells with up to 350 detainees without sufficient food and water, adequate sanitation or healthcare and gunshot wounds have not been treated; whereas several deaths, including children, were reported and several detainees have attempted to take their own lives; whereas reportedly those  who have attempted to challenge guards in regard to their conditions were severely tortured by the Saudi security forces;

C. whereas the Ethiopian officials are reportedly aware of the conditions in which their nationals are being held but claim that they cannot facilitate their repatriation due to COVID-19 measures and the lack of adequate facilities in which returnees can quarantine;

D. whereas about 260,000 Ethiopians, an average of 10,000 per month, were deported from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia between May 2017 and March 2019, according to the International Organization for Migration;

E. whereas migrant workers make up an estimated 20% of the population of Saudi Arabia; whereas migrants face structural marginalisation and discrimination, including in judicial proceedings leading up to corporal and capital punishment, and are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences; whereas under the Kafala system, an abusive visa sponsorship system referred to by human rights organisations as modern-day slavery, migrant workers are unable to enter or exit the country or change employment without their sponsor’s consent, lack legal protection, and are frequently unpaid or underpaid; whereas Saudi Arabia is reported to consider the abolition of the Kafala system;

F. whereas the ill-treatment of migrants and denial of their basic human rights and dignity in Saudi Arabia is a long-standing problem that was made worse by the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus pandemic; whereas the migrants in Saudi Arabia are often held in makeshift detention facilities without adequate food and shelter before being deported;

G. whereas the ill-treatment of migrants fits into a broader pattern of widespread human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia; whereas the Saudi authorities used the restrictions imposed by the need to fight COVID-19 as a cover to further violate human rights of political prisoners such as women rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, Princess Basmah, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman by keeping them in arbitrary and incommunicado detention; whereas the arrests of these and other political activists are part of a severe crackdown on dissent by the Saudi authorities, which includes the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, for which there is still no proper accountability;

H.  whereas the next meeting of Group of Twenty (G20) Leaders’ Summit will be hosted on 21–22 November 2020 by Saudi Arabia, under the theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All” focussing on three aims: “Empowering People”, “Safeguarding the Planet” and “Shaping New Frontiers”, as a emblematic opportunity for Saudi Arabia to showcase the “modern” face of the Kingdom in one of the most prestigious international summit meetings.

1. Strongly condemns the ill-treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to immediately release all detainees, prioritising those in a most vulnerable situation, including women and children;

2. Calls on the Saudi authorities to ensure that every person entering Saudi Arabia from Yemen is allowed to do so safely and is transferred to an appropriate reception centre that meets international standards regarding food, medical and health services, sanitary installations, personal hygiene, windows and light, clothing, floor space, temperature, ventilation and open-air exercise as well as all necessary precautions to limit the transmission of COVID-19;

3. Urges Saudi Arabia to immediately end torture and other ill-treatment in detention, and provide appropriate mental and physical care to all, with particular regard for rape survivors;

4. Calls on the Saudi authorities to ensure that all detainees have access to legal advice, adequate and accurate translation, and the possibility to apply for judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of their detention;

5. Calls on the Saudi authorities to, upon release and before repatriation, ensure migrants’ access to essential services, care and safety, including adequate and safe accommodation and healthcare, free from discrimination and ill-treatment;

6. Urges the Saudi authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of human rights violations, including firing on migrants at the border and unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment during detention and hold all perpetrators to account in fair trials that meet international standards without recourse to the death penalty or corporal punishment;

7. Urges the Saudi authorities to promptly allow independent international monitors, including the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, to enter the country, regularly monitor prison and detention facilities, carry out impartial investigations into allegations of torture and suspicious deaths in detention, and conduct private and regular visits with prisoners;

8. Reiterates the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to release every person detained without sufficient legal basis while ensuring adequate access to healthcare and creating conditions for the proper implementation of pandemic mitigation measures, including social distancing;

9. Reminds, once again, the Saudi authorities of their international obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

10. Notes recent reports that Saudi Arabia is considering abolishing the Kafala sponsorship system; calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to work with the International Labour Organisation towards the full abolition of the Kafala system and provide adequate legal safeguards to all migrant workers within the country, including through structural inspections of their labour conditions; calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to ratify the fundamental ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (No. 87) and on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (No. 98);

11. Calls on the government of Ethiopia to take positive steps to facilitate the voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation of Ethiopian detainees as rapidly as possible, including by engaging with International Organization of Migration, prioritising women and children and vulnerable persons;

12. Calls on the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that consular assistance and visits are available to all detained nationals in Saudi Arabia, respond in a timely and effective way to requests for support, and make representations to the Saudi authorities to improve detention conditions pending repatriation;

13. Urges the EEAS and Member States to call on Saudi Arabia to immediately release all unlawfully detained Ethiopian migrants from Saudi detention facilities and facilitate the voluntary repatriation of these migrants;

14. Calls on the Commission and Member states to increase funding and technical assistance to support Ethiopia’s COVID-19 response, including expanding quarantine facilities for repatriated migrants;

15. Calls on the EEAS and Member States to demand that Saudi Arabia immediately release all those wrongfully detained for exercising their basic rights, including women rights’ defenders, political activists and others; expresses concern regarding the situation of wrongfully detained 2015 Sakharov Prize laureate, Raif Badawi, who was reportedly subject to an assassination attempt while in prison, and demands his immediate and unconditional release;

16. Welcomes Saudi Arabia’s recent legal reform to the repressive system of male guardianship and its repeal of the ban on women driving; urges the Saudi authorities to continue its reforms in line with its obligations under international human rights law, including by repealing provisions requiring the guardian’s consent for marriage and for release from prisons and shelters; urges the government of Saudi Arabia to adopt the recommendation of the Shura Council to abolish the taghayyub legal provision that continues to impose severe limits on womens’ freedom of movement;

17. Calls on the Saudi authorities to unconditionally release all women’s rights defenders, in particular campaigners for the Women to Drive Movement Loujain al-Hathloul and Fahad Albutairi, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and drop all charges against them and against Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Amal al-Harbi, Ruqayyah al-Mharib, Shadan al-Anezi, Abir Namankni and Hatoon al-Fassi; strongly condemns all torture, sexual abuse and other forms of ill-treatment against them, requests an impartial investigation into the violation of their human rights and demands that all perpetrators be brought to justice;

18. Expresses its concern about the increasing crackdown on human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and the grossly unfair trials of migrants and members of the country’s Shi’a minority; welcomes the recent announcement that flogging as a form of punishment will be replaced with jail time; urges the government of Saudi Arabia to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and any form of corporal punishment, including amputation and flogging, with a view to their complete abolition;

19. Calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to amend article 39 of the 1992 Basic Law and the Anti-Cyber Crime Law to guarantee the freedom of the press and of expression both offline and online; calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to amend its Law on Associations in line with international law to allow for the establishment and operation of independent human rights organisations;

20. Urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders unfettered access to the country in line with their respective mandates; urges the HR/VP, the EEAS and the Member States, together with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, to initiate the development of a common approach towards the effective implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in Saudi Arabia, including through the establishment of a structural human rights dialogue with the Saudi authorities and the structural consultation of independent human rights defenders through safe methods of communication;

21. Reiterates its call on the Council to reach a common position leading to an EU-wide embargo on the sale and transfer of arms to Saudi Arabia and other members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, in line with Common Position 2008/944/CFSP; commends Member States that have restricted their export of arms to Saudi Arabia; calls for an end to exports of surveillance technology and other equipment that can facilitate internal repression to Saudi Arabia;

22.   Urges, once again, the Council, to adopt the EU human rights sanctions mechanism as a decision relating to the Union’s strategic interests and objectives under Article 22(1) of the TEU and to ensure that, swiftly upon its adoption, EU-wide targeted sanctions are applied to those responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi;

23. Urges the President of the European Council of Minister and the President of the European Commission to downgrade EU institutional and diplomatic representation to the level of the European Participation to the G20 Leaders Summit to a Senior Official level, in order to avoid legitimizing impunity for human rights violations and ongoing illegal and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia;

24. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service, the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Government of Ethiopia, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Secretary-General of the Centre for National Dialogue of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; calls for this resolution to be translated into Arabic.

 

 

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