ADDIS ABEBA – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was on an official visit to the UAE over the weekend, has vowed that his government will exert maximum efforts to protect the rights and dignity of Ethiopian laborers working in the Middle East nations.
The exact number of Ethiopians who have migrated overseas is not known due to the absence of a centralized registration system.
But large numbers migrate to the Gulf States seeking employment through irregular migration channels.
These migrants were highly vulnerable to human trafficking on their journey and often exploited by their employers when they arrived.
Prime Minister Abiy, who lifted travel restrictions to Gulf countries to seek work overseas a year ago, is now implementing new labor agreements with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The government is signing bilateral labor deals with the governments of Middle East countries so that the diaspora can work with dignity and labor rights, Abiy told members of the Ethiopian diaspora in the Middle East at Dubai’s Shabab Alahli stadium on Saturday.
“All of you Ethiopians and of Ethiopian descent have come here to labor in any field possible and change your lives and that of your people,” he said. “The tribulation and pain you endured due to this is an unwritten and amazing book.”
He said the government understands that Ethiopia is respected when you are respected.
“We will strive to do everything to protect your rights and dignity,” Abiy said during his discussion that centered on resolving Ethiopians challenges.
Due to bleak employment opportunities at home, many Ethiopians leave their country illegally to find employment but many often land in jail for illegal entry.
On Sunday, the Prime minister managed to repatriate 135 Ethiopians, who have been in jail and in refugee camps in the UAE.
“I have discussed with the leadership of the UAE regarding difficulties our citizens are facing there,” said Abiy who held with top UAE officials including Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
“We have reached an agreement that those who do not have work and residence license would be able to get one, and those who were suspected with various crimes and arrested would get amnesty and repatriated to their country,” prime minister Abiy added.
Boosting Ties with UAE
Apart from labor issues, Abiy also held fruitful discussions on various issues with UAE officials who expressed their support for his efforts to transform Ethiopia.
Sheikh Mohammed promised to consult with the responsible officials regarding work permit for Ethiopians, access for land to build schools and places of worship as well as other matters related to the Ethiopian Diaspora.
One of the outcomes of the meeting is granting the Ethiopian Orthodox Church a land to build a place of worship in Abudabi.
The UAE and Ethiopia have strengthened their longstanding historical and commercial ties further in recent years with increased exchanges and economic cooperation, especially between the leaderships of the two nations.
Reports claim the UAE accounts for 17 per cent of Ethiopia’s total exports to Arab countries, and 14 percent of Ethiopia’s total imports from the Arab region.
The UAE accounts for 15 percent of Ethiopia’s total foreign trade with Arab countries, and ranks as Ethiopia’s third Arab trade partner.
“Our two countries are strong strategic partners, united by a shared vision of a prosperous future for Africa. The new UAE Consortium for Africa, which will support initiatives including youth skills and digitization, will serve to deepen this partnership and the close bonds we enjoy,” Abiy said while visiting Dubai’s Expo 2020 venue.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wrapped-up a three-day state visit to UAE and returned home.