Ethiopia Resumes Airlifting Citizens from Saudi Arabia

ADDIS ABABA – More than a thousand Ethiopian migrant workers returned home as authorities resume repatriating citizens stranded in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

“The Government of Ethiopia will continue to strengthen its repatriation and ensure the orderly return of its citizens,” said State Minister of Foreign Affairs Birtukan Ayano while welcoming the returnees today.

The government launched the push to bring Ethiopians living in harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia back to their country on March 30, 2022, with a plan to repatriate 102, 000 citizens in up to eleven months.

In the first round which lasted until August 29, a total of 71,779 citizens came back to their country.

Young men constituted the majority of the returnees (57,794), followed by 10,018 females and 3,967 children.

“The returnees received the necessary support and care in shelter centers set up in the capital, and eventually rejoined their families,” said the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs on Sunday.

More to Return

The government has today resumed another round of the repatriation process. Three planes flew in today, bringing a total of 1,170 Ethiopians back to Addis Ababa.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Birtukan welcomed the returnees at the Bole International Airport. The effort to repatriate citizens living in difficult situations in Saudi Arabia will be intensified, said Birtukan. 

The activities in operation, which are led by a committee of 16 government offices, involve providing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating the returnees with their families. “The government has made the necessary preparations to do that,” the State Minister added.

The latest push plans to return more than 30,000 citizens detained under harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia for entering the country without proper legal documents.

Every year, thousands of Ethiopians risk their lives making the dangerous journey via Yemen hopping in search of better jobs in the Gulf nations often in the hands of the smuggling networks.

Most, however, end up stranded in Yemeni, held under the control of dangerous smuggling networks, or in Saudi Arabia’s prisons for illegal entry. 

According to IOM’s estimate, as many as 750,000 Ethiopians currently reside in Saudi Arabia with about half of them likely to have traveled to the country through irregular means and will need help to return home. 

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