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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethiopian migrants return empty handed from Saudi Arabia : IRIN

I will never go back to that country (Saudi Arabai) 
United Nation's Organ IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) reported today from the Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa that early 137,000 undocumented Ethiopian migrants deported by the Saudi authorities to date. This sad Ethiopian woman among thousands of returnees whose dream of having a good economic life and supporting her family was crushed by the Saudiziation crackdown last month and came back home empty handed and a lot of debts to pay.  Mohamed Yusuf, one of the tens of thousands of returnees, told IRIN that he left his home town in Ethiopia for Saudi Arabia a year ago at the age of 17, he thought life would change for the better. Instead, Yusuf's difficult and unprofitable stay in Saudi Arabia ended and deported back to his country. Yusuf says
"At first, I thought I was going to change my life and those of my father and mother, who paid for the whole trip out of their meagre income,"  whose father is a farmer in northern Ethiopia. However, the gruelling journey to Saudi Arabia and his stay there had been harrowing experiences, he told IRIN. 
During the long trek through Ethiopia’s northeastern Afar Desert to Djibouti on the Red Sea, he endured hunger and thirst and had to bury some of his friends, who perished along the way. On reaching Djibouti, he paid smugglers 5,000 Ethiopian Birr (US$261) to take him from Obock, on Djibouti’s northern coast,
across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. From there he made his way to Saudi Arabia.

The majority of male migrants from Ethiopia follow similar routes when crossing into Saudi and mostly depart from Obock, although many also leave from Somaliland. Female migrants usually enter as domestic workers under Saudi Arabia’s ‘kafala’ (sponsorship) system.

Human rights groups say the system creates conditions for abuse, including rules requiring workers to obtain permission from their employer to change jobs. Those who do so without permission are considered undocumented and were among those rounded up during the government’s crackdown on foreign workers, which started in early November 2013.

Initially, Yusuf found work as a shepherd in a rural area of Saudi Arabia but decided to leave after two months because his employers refused to pay him the 800 Saudi Arabian riyals ($213) they owed him. "One day I decided to quit my job and fled to the city [of Jeddah]. And that was when I got captured by the police and put into prison for five months before coming here like this with many Ethiopians," he told IRIN.

There was no opportunity to earn back the cost of getting there, let alone fulfill his dream of a better life. “I’m confused and do not have any idea what I’m going to do next,” he told IRIN. "One thing is for sure, I will never go back to that country after seeing and hearing what is happening to Ethiopians there."
Many of the Returnees need Medical Treatment : IOM

According to Human Rights Watch and testimony from returnees, during the crackdown, Ethiopian migrant workers were subjected to beatings by Saudi police and citizens that resulted in at least three deaths.

Another returnee, Kidane Gebre, told IRIN: "After hearing this, my mother will be terrified and waiting for me anxiously. Many people from my home town were victims of this violence."

Many of those rounded up were held in makeshift detention centers without adequate food or shelter while they awaited repatriation.
The Ethiopian government initially estimated that some 30,000 undocumented citizens were being detained

and would need to be repatriated, but as of 16 December the number of returnees had reached 136,946. Of these, 84,721 were men, 45,157 women and 7,068 children.

Up until last week, over 7,000 were arriving every day, but according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number has now slowed to about 1,000 a day. A further 35,000 migrants are still expected, according to IOM.

Six transit centres have been set up in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to receive the returnees and, with the support of government, IOM has been providing temporary accommodation, meals, medical services and a $50 transportation allowance to help the migrants complete their journey home. The organization launched an appeal on 6 December for $13.1 million to continue addressing their needs, but to date had only raised $1.9 million.

“As the number of returnees increases, the financial gap has further widened,” notes a press briefing from IOM released on 17 December.

IOM's Chief of Mission in Ethiopia, Josiah Ogina said the migrants included vulnerable people, such as the victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, and disabled persons. "Many of those detained and returned to Ethiopia arrived in need of medical support," Ogina told international donors in Addis Ababa. Click to read from IRIN

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