Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) blasted human traffickers and illegal employment agencies for their role in the recent tragedy involving Ethiopian migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during a press briefing he gave to local journalists yesterday.
Tedros made the statement citing the recent human rights violations on migrants workers in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. He particularly singled out illegal employment agencies and human traffickers on account of their strong opposition to the recent government move to imposed travel embargo on migrant workers to Middle East. The embargo was imposed a little more than an month ago after a wide-spread accusation of abuse of Ethiopian workers in the region. However, the agencies and traffickers sounded their strong opposition at the time citing the right of citizens to move freely.
“Look at what happened now,” he cried. “All of the government’s fears are materializing,” Tedros said. The foreign minister appeared to be a bit bitter while saying ‘we told you so’ and urged them to reevaluate their decision to smuggle fellow brothers and sisters to the region.
Apart from that, Tedros also briefed reporters on a range of other issues in relation to repatriation of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Yet again, he announced that the estimated number of undocumented migrant workers in Saudi has climbed up to 50,000-80,000. The first estimation of the undocumented Ethiopian migrants was expected between 7,000 to 10,000, however, this estimate was later revised to 23,000. The latest, but not necessarily the final, figures has reached 50,000-80,000.
“Still, it is very difficult to know the exact figure,” Tedros said. Both governments does not have the data to identify undocumented illegal workers from Ethiopia. “This is because many of the migrants entered the country (Saudi) via Yemen. According to Tedros, many of these people make the dangerous journey through the sea to arrive in Yemen from where they proceed to the north.
Regarding criticism that government reaction was not prompt to the incident, he disagreed saying that the efforts have started as early as July where senior government officials including the minister himself traveled to the region to discuses the conditions of migrant workers there.
“By then the Saudi government has already put in place a three month deadline to deport all undocumented migrants, but we managed to renegotiate to extend it to seven months,” Tedros explained.
According to the minister, during his travel to Saudi, some 40,000 undocumented migrant were given access to legal documentation in collaboration to the Ethiopian embassy.
Tedros downplayed the speculation that the travel embargo imposed by his government was limited to 6 or 7 months, and assured that it will remain in effect indefinitely. “It will remain until the system shows considerable improvement,” he said.
Thus far, 16,248 citizens have been repatriated to their country currently conveying 5,000-6,000 people a day.
In relation to the response of the Saudi government regarding the killing of Ethiopians, Tedros noted that he was told by Saudi officials that the first Ethiopian was killed when he tried to snatch a weapon from a policeman. However, the Ethiopian counterpart has requested further probe into the matter and wants a satisfactory explanation, he said. Tedros also said that the Ethiopian government’s current priority is nothing but rescuing its people.
By Neamin Ashenafi : Ethiopian Reporter