Addis Ababa – Ethiopia has flown home over 50,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia after a crackdown against illegal immigrants, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
“We projected the initial number to be 10,000 but it is increasing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told AFP, adding that the final total once the mass airlift ends is now expected to be around 80,000.
Ethiopia started repatriating citizens living illegally in Saudi Arabia after a seven-month amnesty period to formalize their status expired on Nov. 4.
Dina said the government is spending $2.6 million (1.9 million euros) on the repatriation program to bring citizens home, the majority women.
Ethiopia has said relations with Saudi Arabia remain “sisterly,” with Dina saying the government’s main priority was to bring citizens home.
Large numbers of Ethiopians — often women seeking domestic work — travel to the Middle East each year looking for jobs.
Around 200,000 women sought work abroad in 2012, according to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. — AFP