Two months left in Saudi Amnesty program but many Ethiopians remain illegally

Although Saudi Arabia is now 30 days into a 90-day grace period allowing amnesty for Ethiopians in the country illegally to leave without charges, not many have been repatriated.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that 400 Ethiopians have returned per day since last Monday, with around 200,000 remaining in Saudi Arabia.

Ministry Spokesperson Meles Alem told the press that more are expected to return soon.

“We have established a registration office and we are telling them to respect the Saudi government’s decision and to come home quickly, even though only a small number have come back so far we anticipate that many will as the deadline approaches.”

Meles asked for regional governments to help out by providing jobs in small and medium enterprises for those who return.

“Saudi’s decision to expel illegal migrants from Ethiopia is sudden and we were not ready to provide facilities and jobs. So far preparations are underway in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa and we expect other regions to follow suit,” he said.

He added that the government is assisting returning migrants by allowing them to bring 21 items back with them tax free.

In 2013 Ethiopia repatriated over 100,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia following a violent crackdown on migrant workers.

Recently Saudi Arabia proposed a new immigration system whereby five million foreign workers of all nationalities would be deported, in a move it said would help rid the country of illegal immigration.

The Saudi government said a considerable number of immigrants have not come for religious or work purposes but for permanent settlement which is “illegal” under Saudi law. Saudi Arabia’s government says it has been facing “intensive and illegal immigration from some Asian and African states”.

Saudi officials have repeatedly called for stricter vetting to reduce the amount of foreign workers permitted to stay in the country.