IOM Aids Over 21,000 Ethiopian Returnees from Saudi Arabia

GENEVA – IOM Ethiopia has assisted over 21,000 Ethiopian returnees arriving home on Ethiopian government charter flights from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) over the past 12 days, following a KSA crackdown on undocumented migrants.

Ethiopia began bringing migrant workers home from the KSA on November 13th. It is now flying up to 12 charters a day from the KSA to Addis Ababa.

Four processing points have been set up by the government, with support from IOM, to assist the returnees. IOM provides them with overnight accommodation, food, water, shoes and money for transport to their places of origin.

The exact number of Ethiopian migrant workers in the KSA is unknown, but the Ethiopian government expects more to return in the coming months.

Under new KSA legislation, which came into effect November 4th, all migrant workers must have legal work permits and sponsors in the country or face jail and fines.

Many have been detained and some reports suggest that some 23,000 Ethiopians have surrendered themselves and are now in Saudi detention camps awaiting repatriation.

“There are 64 camps in Saudi and it is hard to identify the Ethiopians from there. But they include women and children,” said Ambassador Dina Mufti, Spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

In order to keep up with the influx of returnees and inform partners about the seriousness of the situation, IOM, in collaboration with the government of Ethiopia, organized a donor briefing in Addis Ababa on Friday November 22nd.

IOM indicated that it will need approximately USD 4.5 million to adequately support 30,000 returnees. This figure could increase in coming weeks depending on the actual number of arrivals.

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