The Guardian ran a report on Tuesday, citing several of the inmates as detailing their ordeal at the al-Shumaisi center in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
The interviewees made the remarks to the daily on condition of anonymity for fears of repercussions.
“Detainees are held in a crowded series of bunk bed-filled halls, which each hold around 80 people,” the daily said of the facility that is designed to hold 32,000 people, including women and children.
The inmates are usually kept there for months before being sent back to their countries of origin. The only way they would be able to either avoid arrest or secure a decent deportation is for them to bribe the Saudi guards or authorities.
‘Packed like animals, drinking from toilet’
“We are packed as animals. We sleep on metal beds with no mattress, no proper sanitation,” said one, named as Ibrahim, who was put in al-Shumaisi after just five days on the Saudi soil.
The 40-year-old added, “We drink water from the toilet. If you have money you can buy clean water. If don’t have any, you just take dirty water from the toilet.”
“There are sick people, fever, vomiting, and coughing, and nobody taking care of them,” noted his cellmate, Tahiil. “It is possible they have Covid-19. The hospital here is closed,” he added, referring to the type of infection that the virus can cause.
“We are given bread and very little rice. Dry rice and no protein. The food they provide is of bad quality. There are no lemons, no vegetables,” he added.
The two have traveled to the kingdom from Somalia, where they face attacks by the al-Shabaab terrorist group and dire living conditions.
Upon entering the facility, the detainees have their cellphones taken away from them.
In April, many notable human rights bodies warned the Persian Gulf Arab states about the health hazards that were caused by their continued mass jailing of inmates amid the pandemic.