ABUJA, 28 January 2021 – Authorities in Saudi Arabia have said they are deporting 802 Nigerians rounded up in the oil-rich kingdom for having neither work nor residency permits.
A first batch of the deportees arrived the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Thursday from the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The special flight which landed Thursday at the Abuja International Airport returned to their homeland a total of 384 Nigerians: one infant, 83 women and 300 men.
Saudi officials have said a second flight will return hundreds of more Nigerians on Friday.
A third is likely although no date has been provided for when that might be.
Rights activists in Nigeria have slammed Saudi officials for retaliating against poor Nigerians who simply demanded more humane living conditions while working and living in Saudi Arabia.
Some of the Nigerians posted videos on social media demanding access to better lodging with adequate sanitation and in hygienic conditions.
They called for proper food and a reduction in crowded conditions of the shelters in which they were living.
Nigerian authorities say all those deported will have to quarantine for two weeks and test negative for COVID-19 before re-uniting with their families to avoid any of them, in case they are infected, spreading the virus to their family members.
Nigerians are frequently rounded up and deported from Saudi Arabia, with authorities in the oil-rich kingdom evoking one reason or the other.
In 2012, for example, the Nigerian embassy in Saudi Arabia protested the deportation of 1,000 Nigerian women going to Mecca for the Hajj being turned away allegedly for not having male escorts – a requirement for women making the Muslim pilgrimage.