Ethiopia to repatriate 70,000 nationals from Saudi Arabia

In a significant move to address the plight of its citizens abroad, Ethiopia has announced plans to repatriate approximately 70,000 nationals currently residing in Saudi Arabia.

Scheduled to commence early in April, this marks the third large-scale repatriation initiative undertaken by the Ethiopian government since 2018.

State Minister Birtukan Ayano revealed that the repatriation efforts would primarily focus on assisting Ethiopians facing challenging circumstances in Saudi Arabia. However, specifics regarding the legal status of these individuals within the kingdom were not clarified during the recent announcement.

The repatriation process is expected to be coordinated by regional administrations, with particular emphasis placed on ensuring the successful resettlement of returnees in their respective native regions.

Government sources indicate that expenses associated with the repatriation will cover flight tickets, temporary accommodations at transition centers in Addis Ababa, and financial support to facilitate the restart of their lives back home.

Ethiopia’s decision to repatriate its nationals comes at a time when the country is already grappling with significant refugee and internally displaced populations. Currently, Ethiopia plays host to approximately 917,000 refugees from neighboring countries, such as Yemen, while an estimated four million Ethiopians have been displaced internally due to ongoing conflicts and environmental challenges.

However, despite these pressing humanitarian needs, funding for refugee and displaced populations in Ethiopia has faced severe cuts. On March 22, the Ethiopian Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) convened stakeholders in Addis Ababa to address the escalating funding shortfall.

Both organizations emphasized the urgent need for increased contributions from partners and donors to meet the critical needs of refugees and asylum seekers within the country.

The decision to repatriate Ethiopian nationals from Saudi Arabia follows a similar agreement reached between Addis Ababa and Riyadh in March 2022.

This agreement, aimed at repatriating over 100,000 Ethiopian nationals, came amidst mounting allegations of mistreatment and exploitation of foreign laborers in Saudi Arabia, as highlighted by various human rights organizations.

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