The Ethiopian government has pledged to bring home one hundred thousand Ethiopian refugees residing in Saudi Arabia. The first batch of refugees landed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa Wednesday, March 30. The group made up of 498 women and children returnees were received by senior government officials at Addis Ababa’s main airport.
Fleeing poverty and hardship, most of the repatriates braved very difficult journeys to get to Saudi Arabia, crossing through war-torn countries like Yemen to seek opportunities in the oil-rich kingdom.
However, their hopes and dreams of making it were dashed as they reportedly were slumped into horrid, overcrowded, squalid conditions without food and without toilets. A recent video that made rounds on social media led to heavy criticism of the government as it depicted undocumented Ethiopian migrants living in despicable and inhumane camps forced to sleep on bare floors.
It is not clear what plans the government has made for the returning refugees, but the Ethiopian authorities hope to repatriate 100,000 nationals back home over the next 11 months. Officials say they will stay a few days in the capital Addis Ababa where they will receive medical and psycho-social support, and then return to their respective villages of origin. This project is not the first that seeks to bring back suffering migrants. Without the right structures and livelihood opportunities built-in place some of those brought back prefer to return to the same horrid circumstances they are being pulled away from.
The plight of Ethiopian refugees in Saudi Arabia underscores the greater problem of young persons in Sub-Saharan Africa who are forced to flee their countries due to bad governance, war, and a lack of opportunities.
In 2017, a CNN report stunned the world with images of ‘slave markets’ in Libya where some African migrants were sold off for as little as $400. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 23,000 people have perished in the Mediterranean since 2014 while trying to reach Europe from northern Africa, a good number of them from Sub-Saharan Africa.