Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Amnesty for illegal immigrants expire, forcing waves of repatriated citizens
The seven-month period for amnesty for undocumented workers in Saudi Arabia has since expired, sparking unrest between Ethiopians and Saudi police. Now, over 100,000 Ethiopians have been returned to their homeland. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said last week that up to 50,000 more citizens were still expected to return.
“Last night arrivals from Saudi reached 100,620,” Tedros said in a written statement.
“All citizens that were detained in Riyadh deportation camps are back.”
The African nation of Ethiopia began repatriating its citizens from Saudi Arabia last month after the end of the amnesty period. Foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said repatriation efforts had been “successful so far.
“The number is increasing over time,” Mufti said.
There are reports of three Ethiopians dying in clashes with the Saudi police. The government said protesters did not have a permit to demonstrate and confirmed that arrests had been made. No arrest figures have been released.
In response, 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.
Large numbers of Ethiopians leave the country every year looking for work abroad, often in the Middle East.
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, about 27 percent of women and 13 percent of men are jobless, according to the International Labor Organisation.
Undocumented workers from other nations are also returning home from Saudi Arabia. The Sudanese government has said more than 11,000 workers had returned voluntarily after the amnesty ended.