The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has repatriated over 350 Ethiopian migrants from Saudi-Arabia over the past few weeks. Three of these returnees told their horrific ordeals in Saudi Arabia to Abebayehu Gebyaw of Ethiopia's Amharic weekly AddisAdmas. Here's the translation of the Amharic version which was published on November, 18/2013.
“I'd never go back [to Saudi], even if they say a gold is raining there”, Abdu Indris.
“Ethiopians are being incarcerated in Saudi prisons”, Indris Mohammed.
“They [Saudis] consider Abeshas (alternative term for Ethiopians) as cheap commodity.”, Indris Yousuf.
“I'd never go back [to Saudi], even if they say a gold is raining there”
“My name is Abdu Indris, my friends and I started our journey from my hometown Kombolcha ( North Eastern part of Ethiopia). Our trek along the way from Yemen to Saudi was good. I quit school at 8th grade because I didn't have any choice but to help my poor parents.”
AA “How long did you stay in Saudi?”
AI “I came back after staying there ten months; five months in prison and four months as homeless sleeping on the street and I was employed for only one month during my stay.”
AA “What were you doing?”
AI “I was working as a shepherd with salary of 800 Riyal/month. On the eve of the payday, I was taken by the police but I escaped from them and became homeless sleeping on the streets and begging.”
AA “Who was giving you food while you were on the streets?”
AI “Our women [Ethiopian] who work legally were giving me the food by smuggling from their employers. There are many homeless Ethiopians from both genders who are sleeping on the streets and some of them are mentally-ill everywhere on the streets. The police rounds-off these group of people from the street often time.”
AA “ You were also imprisoned from the street?”
AI “ I was in prison for five solid months. Don't ask me how was the prison...I don't want to remember it; it makes me sick. The beatings, the mistreatment; the abuse and the degrading treatment were too much to explain for you. Are they human-beings? I don't know. Ethiopians are dying in the prison as well not to mention the hunger. I'm grateful we are back-home."
AA “ Did you parents know about your situation?”
AI “ I called them after I entered Saudi but they didn't know where I was for the last ten months...if I'm alive or dead. I'm going there without telling them.”
AA “ At the moment, many Ethiopians are reportedly having rough times in Saudi-Arabia...”
AI “ Words can't express how they beat Ethiopians; it is beyond me. The beatings make someone paralyze; they hate us very much”
AA “Don you want to return back sometime soon?”
AI “ I'm glad I came back and grace to Allah for allowing me to set my foot on my country. I know what I'm going to do when I go back to my hometown. I'll be a lesson to my friends; those who think is good will follow my suit but for the rest, it is up to them to choose.”
AA “ What do you have in mind to do?”
AI “ I will work hard to do business or in other fields. I'll never go back to Saudi, even if they say a gold is raining there...I don't even want to hear its name. You know how their punishments are gruesome? They tie your thumbs with a rope and suspend it on something very high. I can't explain to you how much pain you get when they kick the chair your are standing on. There are many have sustained back pain, unable to hold their pees, being crippled... look (showing the scare on his body)...the wound was driving me crazy for so many times following the beatings by them [Saudi police]. One of my friends who became ill due to the beatings by them, died after he returned back to Ethiopia after one month. We had been through a lot of hardships.”
“Ethiopians are being incarcerated in Saudi prisons”
AA “ What's your name?”
IM “ Indris Mohammed.”
AA “ Age?”
IM “ I turned twenty.”
AA “ How did you go to Saudi?”
IM “ When I was 8th grader we discussed with my friends to go to the Saudi and do the same things like our peers who went to Saudi and have bought Bajaj (three-wheel mini-taxi); have built corrugated-sheet houses and boomed their parents trade. Then, I decided to go. I paid to a smuggler four thousand Ethiopian Birr ( 200 USD) and went on foot for nine days to reach the sea. Finally, I arrived in Saudi walking on foot.
AA “ You haven't faced problems problems during your journey?”
IM “ There were of course hardships. They shot on us at Yemen's border; some of us escaped while the others were captured.”
AA “ Did you find a job after you entered Saudi?”
IM “ Yes, I was in charge of doing the molding of various plastic products at the plastic factory.”
AA “ Were you sending money to your family?”
IM “ Yes, I was sending two thousand Riyals/month. I bought a land in Kombolcha. I'll work hard with my savings.”
AA “ How did you comeback?”
IM “ I was detained and deported.”
AA “ According to the mass-media, the Ethiopians are suffering a lot in Saudi...”
IM “ There was crying everywhere in that big town. I wasn't beaten but I heard and saw; the misery and hardship are worse in the prison. Jawaza ( immigration police) were rounding off and jailing many people. There are many Ethiopians who are suffering in the prisons.”
AA “ Have you been also arrested?”
IM “ Yes, one month and three days.”
AA “ Do you want to go back there?”
IM “ No, (Khalas) I've had enough!”
They [Saudis] consider Abeshas (alternative term for Ethiopians) as cheap commodity.
My name is Indris Yousuf and I was born in Haiq ( a small town in North Eastern part of Ethiopia). I went to Saudi because I needed some change. I am the last child and my mother and father were crying when I left home; which I think was haunting me everyday. I went to Djibouti and crossed the sea. We had a guide was helping us go through Djibouti.
AA “ How was the journey?”
IM “ You have no idea how tiresome it was. We were burying men and women; we left the weak ones. It took us nine days to reach to the Red-sea. I can't explain to you how much we had to endure during our nine hours journey by boat. There was nothing on that desert, so we were not able to give food and water for those who were sick. All of us had finished our foods; I was trying to save my life and reach to a country where one can make a lot of money.
AA “ Who told you that one can make a lot of money in Saudi?”
IM “ My friends who were calling from Saudi; I was motivated and determined to go to Saudi when I see they [his friends in Saudi] were sending money to their families and relatives. Then I risked my life to cross the sea and the desert.
AA “ Wasn't going legally to Saudi better?”
IM “ Oh girl, those Ethiopians who went to Saudi are treated the same way; if you are Ethiopian, it doesn't matter you go there by sea or by air (legally). There were many Ethiopians suffering along with us in the prison, who went to Saudi legally; they are not treated differently. I paid two thousand Ethiopian Birr ( 100 USD) for a smuggler to cross the red-sea with many Ethiopians from Djibouti. The boat which was carrying us almost capsized due to a tide. After we arrived in Yemeni's port-city Mocha, we took a ride by car. Then, the Yemeni police found us and beaten us mercilessly to call our relatives in Jiddah or other countries and wire money to be released. The women were being gang-raped by three to four men.
AA “ How did you reach from Yemeni's port to Saudi?”
IM “ Those who had money went there by car while others who didn't have like me, crossed the desert for ten days to reach there. Some of them were dying but we were leaving them there since we didn't have the strength to bury them. Everywhere there was bad smell from the bodies of those perished on the desert. Oh no, we were crying when we see their skeletons; some of my friends also died along the way. ( He gave a long breath and lost in thought). One of homeboy who went with me from my neighborhood died when we arrived at the Saudi border; I don't know what to tell to his parents.
AA “ How did you enter Saudi?”
IM “ I did criss-cross to enter to Saudi and begun working as a shepherded.”
AA “ How much was your salary?”
IM “ It was four hundred Riyal/month. I was robbed my two months' salaries while I was going to my friends. The money which I earned when I was working with my friends was also robbed. I think they [Saudis] consider Abeshas [ Ethiopians] as some kind of cheap commodity. I know that one Saudi woman who cut the arm of an Ethiopian woman because she thought the Ethiopian was trying to steal her husband. They refuse to pay their salaries. There are many Ethiopians who are sleeping on the streets.
AA “ Have you been imprisoned?”
IM “ Yes, I was jailed for two months. They were giving us a small bread in the morning and in the evening. They have many prisons which are crowed by many Abeshas. When we talk to prison wardens they beat us and say ' shut-up animals!'. Their contempt towards us is enormous.”
AA “ Are you going back to your birthplace?
IM “ Yes, I called them [his parents] and I am going back home.”