Ethiopia has repatriated over 100,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia, Addis Ababa’s foreign ministry said, following a violent crackdown against illegal immigrants in the oil-rich kingdom.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said that up to 50,000 more citizens are still expected to come home.
“Last night arrivals from Saudi reached 100,620,” Tedros said in a statement, adding that “all citizens that were detained in Riyadh deportation camps are back”.
Ethiopia started repatriating its citizens from Saudi Arabia last month after a seven-month amnesty period for undocumented immigrants expired, sparking violent protests between Ethiopian migrants and Saudi police.
Repatriation efforts have been “successful so far”, the foreign ministry said.
“The number is increasing over time,” foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told AFP.
The Ethiopian government said three of its citizens were killed in the clashes with Saudi police.
Human Rights Watch has urged Saudi authorities to launch a probe into the violence, and warned of a potential “humanitarian disaster” for workers held in custody.
Dina said the repatriation operation, which started on November 13, could take a couple more weeks to complete.
“Hopefully we will do it as soon as possible… if the current pace continues, it may be it will be in a week or two,” he said.
Large numbers of Ethiopians leave the country every year looking for work abroad, often in the Middle East.
Many face poor working conditions, mental and physical abuse, low pay and discrimination, according to the International Labour Organisation.
In October, Ethiopia said it was banning nationals from moving to the Middle East for work after reports of maltreatment.
With 91 million citizens, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation and also one of the continent’s poorest; the majority of people live on less than two dollars a day.
Though it is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, unemployment persists. Around 27 percent of women and 13 percent of men are jobless, according to the ILO.
Migrants from other nations are also returning home from Saudi Arabia.
Last week, official media in Sudan said more than 11,000 workers had returned voluntarily after the amnesty ended.
It is to be remembered that Ethiopians living