Ethiopia To Repatriate 70,000 Nationals From Saudi Arabia

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The Ethiopian government said it would repatriate some 70,000 of its nationals living in Saudi Arabia starting in early April.

State Minister Birtukan Ayano said the repatriation, the third such programme since 2018, will target “Ethiopians who are in a difficult situation”.

During the announcement last week, the minister didn’t specify whether the returnees have been living in Saudi Arabia legally.

Regional administrations are expected to ensure the returnees resettle in their native home areas.

According to a government dispatch, repatriation expenses will include flight tickets, temporary holding at transition centres in Addis Ababa and some money to restart life.

Ethiopia currently hosts about 917,000 refugees from neighbouring countries such as Yemen.

Data from the Ethiopian Refugees and Returnees Service (RSS) also estimates that four million Ethiopians have been displaced due to the nation’s conflicts and environmental hardships.

There have been funding cuts meant for these groups, however.

On March 22, RRS and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) gathered stakeholders in Addis Ababa “with the intent to reach a common understanding of the rising fund cut for the refugee operation in Ethiopia and to stand together to respond to the crises thereon.”

They said they were “urging partners and donors to contribute the much-needed fund to respond to the burning needs of refugees and asylum seekers.”

In March 2022, Addis Ababa struck a deal with Riyad to repatriate over 100,000 of its nationals. It came as rights groups accused Saudi Arabia of mistreating foreign labourers.