Undocumented migrants: Ethiopia asks Saudi for deadline extension

A Saudi police officer stands next to foreign workers, who had been illegally staying in the kingdom.

Ethiopia has asked for an extension of the 90 days amnesty that will expire Wednesday issued by Saudi Arabia for illegal migrants to return to their original countries.

Speaking to an Ethiopian state-affiliated media outlet Radio Fana, spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Meles Alem says Ethiopia has managed to make 45,000 of its undocumented citizens return home and gave to another 110,000 Ethiopian travel documents.

Both figures are still a minority of the estimated 400,000 undocumented Ethiopians living in Middle East’s largest economy in jobs ranging from maids to construction sites workers.

Alem says with an unknown number of undocumented Ethiopians remaining in Saudi Arabia, the Ethiopian government has presented a proposal to Saudi authorities to extend the amnesty deadline.

With a growing population currently at around 30 million and a squeeze in international oil price Saudi Arabia is on a drive to indigenize its’ work force currently dominated by millions of illegal and legal migrants.

The approaching deadline recalled painful memories Ethiopians in the last deportation debacle in November 2013 when a deportation round by Saudi authorities on illegal migrants left many Ethiopians in Saudi detention camps or back home penniless.

Ethiopian government has already dispatched a dozen diplomats in its embassy in Riyadh and consular offices in other Saudi cities to give consular advice to stranded Ethiopians.

With an eye to curbing illegal migration, the Ethiopian government last month signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia government for an overseas employment agreement to help future legal Ethiopian migrants.

It has also put advertorials in Ethiopian electronic media urging relatives of Ethiopians illegally residing in Saudi Arabia to persuade them to return ahead of the expiry of the Amnesty deadline.


Zainab Sa’id