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Appeal to FREE Rohingya Detainees from the Immigration Detention Center in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Inside the Immigration Detention Center in Jeddah (Photo: Supplied by a Rohingya detainee)

Appeal to FREE Rohingya Detainees from the Immigration Detention Center in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 

Ro Nay San Lwin 
RB Campaign 
January 26, 2017 

In the wake of continuous violence against the Rohingya people of Myanmar’s Rakhine State since 2012, thousands of Rohingyas have fled to nearby countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and even as far as Australia. Thousands have fled to Bangladesh and some of them then reached India. 

Some Rohingya youth in Myanmar felt they were living without a future, unable to continue their studies or support themselves in any way. Many of them managed to gather money by selling their families’ properties to pay the cost of fleeing. Among them, hundreds raised enough money to fund their way to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, getting to King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah by way of obtaining Umrah (Pilgrimage) passports from ‘brokers’ in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan. 

Once they land at the airport their fingerprints are recorded and stored. The aim of these young men is to find some way to earn a living and support their families still suffering in horrible conditions back in Myanmar. 

But for many of these men their dreams do not come true. Since 2013 up until today more than 600 Rohingyas have been detained at various immigration checkpoints and raids in the cities of Jeddah and Makkah.

“Once we were arrested they brought us to the police station and checked our fingerprints. They found our fingerprints in the system saying we were from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan because we held those passports which were given to us by brokers. So here we are identified as various nationals by the documents recorded at the entry.” said a Rohingya detainee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He has been in Jeddah immigration detention center, known as Semishi, for over 3 years. 

“According to our entry documents in the system, the legal way here is to deport us to those countries but we are not actually from those countries. So whenever the Embassies’ officials came to verify us we told them frankly that we are Rohingyas from Myanmar. The Embassies officials then responded that we should stay here and they told us they can’t take someone who doesn’t belong to their countries. So we remain here in the prison and no one cares about us.” the young man who is in his 20s continued. 

The situation in Rakhine State is getting worse day by day. A few hundred have been killed, thousands of homes have been burnt to the ground and a few hundred women and girls have been raped by Myanmar Soldiers. These events took place as part of clearance operation against the Rohingya which use the pretext of responding to attacks on three Myanmar Border Guard Police outposts on October 9th. The Military’s response has been indiscriminate, disproportionate and observers believe many of the actions by the Myanmar Security Forces amount to Crimes Against Humanity. According to the UN, 65,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh and 21,000 are internally displaced. 

The Rohingyas in the detention center in Jeddah had only one hope: To support their families in Rakhine State. Now they are helpless while their loved ones are killed, raped and displaced. 

Some Rohingyas attempted to raise the issue at a recent extraordinary session meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 19th. The Rohingya who tried to contact them said they were unable to get their appeal letter to the OIC foreign ministers, despite trying every avenue available to them. 

“We appeal to His Majesty the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to help us. We can support our families if we are released and can work here. Our little support will be huge for many hundreds of families in our country,” the man said his appeal is on behalf of all Rohingyas in the detention center. 

Speaking to more than a dozen detainees over the phone I heard the same stories from all of them. 

Although the center isn’t as bad as Myanmar or prison, their feelings toward their families should be heard, recognized and honored. These men should be released. They should be allowed the right to work as the Kingdom had allowed thousands of Rohingya to do before, following genocidal campaigns in Myanmar against them which began in 1978.

According to the detainees, there are more than 600 Rohingyas currently in the detention center. I have obtained many details including the identification numbers of 267 detainees. The men in the center want to provide me more details but they say they can not move freely within the center to gather all of the information which I have asked for in order to help raise their concerns. 

I was able to obtain their room numbers and the number of the Rohingya detainees inside the rooms. According to them 3 in Room A-4, 5 in B-2, 2 in B-9, 6 in B-48, 50 in B-52, 35 in B-53, 21 in B-54, 3 in B-61, 3 in B-62, 3 in B-63, 77 in B-68, 74 in B-70, 36 in B-77, 45 in B-78, 23 in B-79, 3 in G-4, 5 in G-6, 2 in G-7, 4 in G-8, 6 in G-10, 2 in G-28, 32 in G-38, and 14 in G-39. In all of these rooms the total number of Rohingya detainees is 454, yet the detainees said there are more than 150 in three other rooms which they will need a lot of time to obtain exact information on, as these rooms are much further from their own rooms. They explained to me that the room numbers starting with A represents for (ا, Alif), B represents for (ب, Baa) and G represents for (ج, Jimm). 

I am appealing humbly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of my fellow Rohingyas to release them immediately and provide these innocent people with work permits. With this they can finally support their families and know freedom they have been denied their entire lives. I am willing to cooperate with Saudi government to verify any of their identities. I can be reached by e-mail at

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