Protest against Saudi violence on migrant workers held in Addis Ababa
The Ethiopian government has budgeted 50 million birr for the rehabilitation of Ethiopians currently being deported from Saudi Arabia.
According to Ambassador Dina Mufti, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, over 900 Ethiopians arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday and Friday.
“More people will arrive almost everyday. There are many more currently in Saudi Arabia in deportation camps and their travel papers are being processed,” Dina stated.
The deportation of Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia came after the Saudi government’s weeklong crackdown on migrant workers that killed two people, one an Ethiopian national and the other a Sudanese national. Different news outlets have reported that there are currently around 32,000 Ethiopians in deportation camps in Saudi’s capital Riyadh, and 2,400 have already received their travel documents.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Saudi Mohamed Hassan also stated on Friday that 1,151 Ethiopian women will arrive in the next few days as priority has been given to women and children in the deportation process.
“Most of the people that have been deported are very confused; they didn’t even know they were in Ethiopia or Addis Ababa because most of them have never been here,” a source told Capital.
The situation in Saudi Arabia has led to an outbreak of protests by Ethiopians living abroad. A demonstration was held in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Addis Ababa on Friday November 15 before it was dispersed by the Federal Police.
The Ethiopian government has condemned what has happened in the Kingdom and has asked for an explanation and a thorough investigation. “This is unacceptable. We call on the Saudi government to investigate this issue seriously. We are also happy to take our citizens, who should be treated with dignity while they are there,” Tedros Adhanom, Foreign Minister reportedly said last Sunday.
The Saudi government claims it is working to create jobs for Saudi nationals by reducing the number of foreign workers, totaling some nine million people, hence the crackdown. Last year alone, 200,000 women left Ethiopia seeking jobs, according to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ report.
Last month the Ethiopian government banned work seekers from traveling to Saudi Arabia because of the many reports of abuse.
In Saudi Arabia, foreign workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without the permission of their sponsors, who are often Saudi companies or individuals who provide workers to businesses for profit. Most of the sponsors take away the passports of the workers for the duration of their contract.
Human rights groups have criticized Saudi Arabia over the conditions of migrant workers in the Kingdom and called on Riyadh to abolish the sponsorship system for migrant workers.
This week, Saudi Arabia winning a seat on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ top rights body, also sparked some criticism.
The Kingdom has a bad human rights track record. According to Human Rights Watch reports, detainees in the country, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill treatment while in detention. Women and girl’s rights remain violated and sex segregation remains intense