Ethiopians Race to Leave Saudi Arabia as Mass Deportations Loom


As of the beginning of July, 111,000 Ethiopians had agreed to leave Saudi Arabia and 45,000 had successfully returned to Ethiopia, according to Ethiopia’s MFA.

By Salem Solomon & Mestawet Shumye (VOA)

Thousands of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are in a state of limbo as they try to return home after being ordered to leave the Gulf state.

On March 29, Saudi Arabia launched a campaign it dubbed “Nation Without Violations,” giving all foreign immigrants living there illegally 90 days to leave without incurring a penalty. They were told they could return later after applying for legal status and going through the immigration process.

As of the beginning of July, 111,000 Ethiopians had agreed to leave Saudi Arabia and 45,000 had successfully returned to Ethiopia, according to Meles Alem, the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many remained stranded, however, due to an inability to get a seat on overbooked flights.

Saudi government officials believe there are about 400,000 Ethiopians living illegally in the country. Most are employed as maids or other domestic workers; they have few legal rights and endure widespread abuse.

In early July, VOA Amharic reported that 110 people were stuck for days in a community center in Riyadh, waiting for open seats on flights back to Addis Ababa.

Among them was a woman, seven months pregnant, who said she was left without proper sanitation or care.

“It is difficult for me to sit or sleep. There is another pregnant woman here and what is going to happen to us?” the woman told Gabina, VOA’s Amharic youth program.

Another woman said, “We don’t have proper sanitation here. About 20 people are jammed in one room.”

Most of those who were stranded last week have returned to Addis Ababa, but many more are trying to get out as soon as possible.

It is unclear how many foreign workers will be affected. Middle East Monitor reported there are about 5 million illegal foreign workers living in the country. Saudi Arabia’s total population is 32 million, and it relies heavily on imported labor.

Read the complete story at VOA
——
See also: