Ethiopia Urges Illegal Workers in Saudi Arabia to Come Home

Politics News

So far only 60,000 out of the estimated 400,000 Ethiopians returned back

Hundreds of thousands of illegal Ethiopian workers in Saudi Arabia
Four Hundred thousand illegal Ethiopian workers in Saudi Arabia face monetary fines, imprisonment and forced deportation as the Kingdom’s amnesty for undocumented workers expires on Tuesday.


Ethiopia says that only a fraction of its citizens working illegally in Saudi Arabia have returned home before today’s amnesty deadline.

In March, the Gulf state said that those without papers would not be arrested if they left within 90 days.

The deadline was extended by another month, but so far only 60,000 out of an estimated 400,000 Ethiopians have left, the Ethiopian government says.

Ethiopians make up a large portion of the kingdom’s undocumented workers. All those without papers now face imprisonment or forced deportation.

Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Negeri Lencho told the BBC he feared what could now happen to his compatriots who were still in Saudi Arabia, adding they must return “with a sense of urgency”.

“They will be imprisoned and we don’t want our citizens to face unnecessary imprisonment, or suffer any physical harm or humiliation,” Mr Lencho said.

One of those who returned is 28-year-old domestic worker Nura Ahmed. “Life was really tough,” she told the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza just after she arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“Sometimes I was jobless because I did not have the proper documentation, so I had no freedom to move around.

“One can never be at peace there,” she added.

In 2013, a number of Ethiopians died in clashes with Saudi police as they were being rounded up for deportation.

Saudi Arabia attracts migrant workers from around the world, particularly Africa, and south and south-east Asia.

Saudi authorities estimate that up to one million people are working in the country illegally.

So far, tens of thousands of people of different nationalities have taken advantage of the grace period and have either left or acquired correct papers.

Saudi Amnesty Expires as Hundreds of Thousands of Ethiopians Remain in Kingdom


Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia face monetary fines, imprisonment and forced deportation as the Kingdom’s amnesty for undocumented workers expires on Tuesday.

The office of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says about 70,000 nationals have so far returned home and 130,000 have been issued with exit visas.

Saudi authorities say those who fail to leave the Kingdom before July 25, 2017 will face a penalty of 26,653 dollars, imprisonment and forced deportation.

About 570,000 of the one million undocumented workers have so far left the Kingdom in line with the amnesty. 12,000 of them have returned to the Kingdom legally, according to Saudi media reports.

In March, Saudi declared a 90 day amnesty for all undocumented workers to leave the Kingdom and return legally. The amnesty was extended by one month upon Ethiopia’s request and will expire on July 25, 2017.

The Ethiopian government says about 400,000 nationals live in the Kingdom, but other sources say the number could be as high as 700,000. A considerable number of them are undocumented.