Riyadh: Around 650 Rohingya refugees held in a Saudi detention centre on Wednesday went on hunger strike to protest against their indefinite detention in the Gulf country for the third time in recent months.
The refugees, held inside Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah since 2012 for not having valid documentation, initiated the hunger strike on Saturday, Ro Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator for the Free Rohingya Coalition told Al Jazeera.
As the hunger strike continued across 10 rooms at the detention camp, at least seven members were immediately rushed to the hospital on Tuesday after their health deteriorated, the activist added.
“The immigration police are harassing them, saying if you carry on this hunger strike, we will not even give you water,” Lwin was quoted as saying.
After seeing a video footage of the ongoing strike that was posted by Lwin on Twitter, Vice chairman of the NGO European Rohingya Council (ERC), Ambia Perveen, told Al Jazeera that the police have snatched away blankets, pillows, shirts and other necessary belongings of the detainees.
Most of the Rohingya entered Saudi Arabia in 2012 in pursuit of a better life following violence breaking out in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.
Upon arrival, their fingerprints were registered under a different nationality as they carried fake passports obtained from brokers in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Lwin said.
Most of the Rohingyas entered Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage visas but overstayed there to work. They were detained at various immigration checkpoints and during raids, the activist further noted.
Myanmar stripped the Muslim-majority Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, rendering them stateless.
Lwin said, “They didn’t commit any crime”, adding, “Their only crime is they didn’t have the valid resident permit, which is why they were arrested.”
At present, nearly one million Rohingyas are forced to take shelter in Bangladesh after Myanmar’s army, responding to attacks by an armed group, launched a brutal campaign against the Muslim minorities in the Rakhine state in 2017.