Ethiopia to Repatriate Citizens in Saudi Illegally

Dina-muftiThe Ethiopian government is reportedly planning to bring back all her citizens living in Saudi Arabia illegally.

The Spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Dina Mufti however failed to specify exactly how many immigrants are due to return and when they will be repatriated.

This announcement comes after the 7 month amnesty period the Saudi government gave to all illegal immigrants to sort out their paperwork expired on Sunday November 3rd.

Since the beginning of last week, special task forces created by the Saudi Labor and Interior Ministries have paraded business and residential areas in the nation’s capital Riyadh, searching for migrants without proper documents. Thousands of illegal immigrants are reported to have been arrested, and are due to be deported. The officials are also reported to be targeting travel agents and illegal ‘brokers’ who assist migrants gain entry into the country.

On Tuesday, an Ethiopian immigrant was allegedly shot by Saudi officials who attempted to take him into custody on the basis of his inability to provide his immigration papers.

Spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Dina Mufti said the government was still “verifying” the report.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry have held talks with Muhammed Ibrahim Alshugairan, the head of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Addis Ababa, on the recent developments.

The head of the Saudi Embassy assured Ethiopian officials of the Saudi government’s respect for the long standing mutually beneficial relationship between both nations and promised to bring their concerns up with the appropriate authorities.

The Ethiopian government earlier revealed that its Embassy in Saudi had been supporting its citizens since the 7 month period expired and implored all Ethiopian nationals who wished to return home to report to the Consulate General in Saudi.

Millions of Asian and African migrants travel to Saudi Arabia illegally with the aid of illicit agents or ‘brokers’ yearly. A large percentage of these illegal migrants are reported to go through physical and emotional abuse and face discrimination, while working in deplorable conditions.

Last month the Ethiopian government placed a ban on its citizens from traveling in search of employment. The ban specifically prevents Ethiopian workers from going to Saudi Arabia for about 6 months, while the government tries to find a “lasting solution” to reports of human rights abuse of Ethiopian workers in the Middle Eastern country.

Observers say reports of the killing of an Ethiopian national earlier in the week, along with sustained reports of mistreatment of Ethiopians in Saudi and other countries are the main inspirations behind the government’s decision to repatriate her citizens in Saudi.

In April, the Saudi government had announced that all illegal immigrants should get proper documents or leave the country in 7 months. Under the laws of Saudi Arabia, migrants must be “sponsored” by their employer to enter the country legally. But many migrants are unskilled and therefore are unable to find employers to ‘sponsor’ their stay in the kingdom.

According to the pundits, this exercise by the Saudi government is aimed at eliminating the thriving black market (largely controlled by immigrants) to enable the expansion of the private sector by Saudi nationals.

Migrants are reported to form only about 8 million of Saudi Arabia’s estimated population of 29 million – and a majority of the kingdom’s nationals are employed by the government.

Since the sweep began on Monday the streets of Riyadh are reported have been virtually empty and traffic congested areas have flowed freely. However, numerous shops have remained closed and Saudis are beginning to feel the other side of the brunt of this unwanted but necessary strike for illegal migrants in their country.

Source: AFP

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