Hundreds of Ethiopians repatriated from Saudi Arabia after painful ordeal
Hundreds of Ethiopians are repatriated from Saudi Arabia after suffering under abusive and harsh conditions.
Hundreds of Ethiopians returned to Addis Ababa on Wednesday, the first batch of an estimated 100,000 citizens who would be repatriated from Saudi Arabia in the following months.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that some 900 returnees, including many mothers with small children, arrived at Addis Ababa International Airport throughout the day.
"It is estimated that about 750,000 Ethiopians currently reside in the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) with about 450,000 likely to have traveled to the country through irregular means and will need help to return home," the IOM said in a statement.
For long years, human rights organizations have condemned the imprisonment circumstances of Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia.
"We were crying daily," said Jemila Shafi, 29, one of the returnees from Saudi Arabia.
According to her, they were given one loaf of bread and a pot of cooked rice to distribute among 300 individuals.
"Even 400 people were living in one room and we couldn't see the sunlight," she added.
According to a recent agreement between the two nations, Ethiopia's foreign ministry has stated that it will repatriate around 100,000 of its people from Saudi Arabia over the next seven to eleven months.
A safe return is a top priority - Ethiopian Minister of Women and Social Affairs
Ethiopian Minister of Women and Social Affairs Ergoge Tesfaye told Xinhua that the safe return of citizens from any corner of the world is the top priority of the government that pursues citizen-centered diplomacy.
She stated that the federal and provincial governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, will give all necessary assistance to the returnees until they are fully rehabilitated and integrated into their respective communities.
"During their stay in the transit centers, we have to avail themselves of the necessary food and non-food items. We need to work with partners like IOM, the whole sector has its responsibilities and duties," Tesfaye added.
The UN migration agency said in a statement that the returnees "were supported and registered by IOM workers and offered, among other things, food, temporary lodging, medical assistance, and counseling services."
"These are our citizens," said Yeshingus, adding that "our citizens have come back home” after going through a very painful time.
The IOM stressed that "meeting the needs of the 100,000 returnees is going to be an enormous challenge for the government, IOM, and partners".
Saudi Arabia's human rights record is being heavily criticized, notably after recently carrying out mass execution of 81 people within the kingdom in addition to the dozens of thousands of casualties its war on Yemen produced.