Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia returned to Addis Ababa

Undocumented Ethiopian workers being sent home

Thousands of undocumented migrant Ethiopians continue to return to Addis Ababa after being expelled from Saudi Arabia where labour laws are being tightened.

Some 136,000 Ethiopians have been repatriated so far, with a total of up to 150,000 expected to return. Since 13 November up to 20 flights a day have been landing in Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa from Saudi airports in Jeddah and Riyadh.

Riyadh began expelling illegal Ethiopians following the expiry of a seven-month amnesty period for undocumented immigrants on 4 November. The crackdown is targeting nine million migrant labourers in the oil-rich kingdom in an attempt to reduce the 12 per cent umemployment rate among Saudi citizens.

Reports of human rights violations by Saudi officials against the returning Ethiopian migrants have caused uproar on social media sites and the Ethiopian government has requested an investigation into the alleged incidents of violence.

New York-based Human Rights Watch say the crackdown has involved Ethiopians being beaten by Saudi police, as well as cases of rape and murder by vigilantes. The Saudi interior ministry has described the claims as false.

The returning Ethiopians are being assisted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which describes the situation it as an "emergency" and said $13 million is required to support returnees.

Saudi Arabia traditionally attracts large numbers of Ethiopians who gain work there as domestic servants or manual labourers, but many encounter harsh working conditions, abuse, low pay and discrimination, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

There are almost 38,000 Ethiopians legally registered in Saudi Arabia.