Saudi Arabia is home to almost 300,000 Rohingya, according to Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator for the Free Rohingya Coalition, who urged authorities to stop the deportations, adding that the men faced imprisonment in Bangladesh upon their arrival.
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“Majority of these Rohingya have residency permits and can live in Saudi Arabia legally,” Nay San Lwin told Al Jazeera.
“But these detainees, who are being kept in the Shumaisi detention centre [in Jeddah], have not been treated like their fellow Rohingya. Instead, they are being treated like criminals.”
According to one video obtained by Nay San Lwin, the Rohingya, most of whom arrived in the country several years ago, were being prepared to be taken to Jeddah international airport on Sunday where they would then board direct flights to Dhaka.
He said the men were expected to be flown out either late on Sunday or Monday evening.
— Ro Nay San Lwin (@nslwin) January 20, 2019
Nay San Lwin added that many of the Rohingya entered Saudi Arabia after obtaining passports belonging to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal through smugglers via fake documents.
Myanmar stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, rendering them stateless.
Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, the Rohingya were not recognised as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, restricting their rights to study, work, travel, marry, vote, practise their religion and access health services.
Saudi Arabia stopped issuing residency permits to Rohingya who entered the country after 2011.
Nay San Lwin said that several human rights activists had appealed to Saudi authorities over the past two years and that he had personally approached Saudi officials and diplomats to intervene.
“When these Rohingya arrive in Bangladesh, they could be jailed,” he said. “Saudi Arabia should stop these deportations and grant them residency permits like the other Rohingyas who arrived in the country before them.”
Some of the detainees held at the Shumaisi detention centre said they had lived in the kingdom their entire lives and had been sent to the facility after Saudi police found them without identification papers.
Described as the “world’s most persecuted minority”, around one million Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in late 2017 when the Myanmar army launched a brutal campaign against them.
The UN accused government soldiers and local Buddhists of massacring families, burning hundreds of villages and carrying out mass gang rapes.
Myanmar denies the allegations, saying security forces are battling armed rebels.
However, many of the refugees housed in the cramped and unsanitary camps in Bangladesh said they feared returning to Myanmar without guaranteed rights such as citizenship, access to healthcare and freedom of movement.