The first group of Ethiopian repatriates from Saudi Arabia arrived at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport safely Wednesday afternoon. Some of the returnees told ERTA that life as a migrant had been appalling especially for those without legal status. They commended the effort of the Ethiopian government towards the safe return of citizens.
They vowed to forget the past, work hard and prosper in their own country and called on fellow Ethiopians to follow suit. Spokesperson of MoFA, Ambassador Dina Mufti said the Saudi government is taking measures to stop violence against Ethiopian workers in that country. He said the ongoing effort of the Ethiopian government to rescue citizens in Saudi Arabia would be continued in a strengthened manner.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) would support the returnees to integrate with their families and communities, it was indicated. The Ethiopian Ambassador in Riyadh had announced on Tuesday that a number of Ethiopian workers without documentation had handed themselves over to the Riyadh police.
The Saudi authorities are now arranging for their repatriation. The Ambassador, Muhammed Hassan said that as many illegal workers were unsure about how to proceed when the amnesty ended, the Ethiopian Embassy held discussions with the Saudi authorities and made arrangements to enable such citizens to hand themselves in.
Under the agreement, the workers would be kept at various holding centers until they could get exit visas. The Embassy has assisted 38,199 workers to correct their employment status during the amnesty period which ended on November 4.
The Ambassador said embassy officials and volunteers, together with various Saudi government agencies, were working to get travel documents for the workers. He said Ethiopia had been one of the first countries to request an extension of the initial amnesty so that citizens would benefit and correct their status, but where this was not possible the embassy began preparations for them to return home.
The Ambassador, who sent his condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives on Saturday, said the weekend clashes had occurred because illegal workers had been frustrated because they had no way to surrender to the police.
They had taken to the streets to voice their concern and this had led to clashes with some youths in the neighborhood. Such confrontations and clashes were “unacceptable,” he said, adding that “the safety and human rights of all people should be respected.