Ethiopian Returnees Speak Out

As many as 140,357 migrants from Saudi Arabia have returned home to Ethiopia, 36 days after the expulsion operation started.

“As we speak, Ethiopia is welcoming thousands of Ethiopian migrants returning home following the Saudi government crackdown on irregular migrants residing in the kingdom. IOM is collaborating with the Ethiopian government in the repatriation efforts with the returnees’ figure now exceeding 140,000,” said IOM OIC Chief of Mission, Gabriel Okutoi.

Many returnees said they “kissed the dirt” when they got home and were overwhelmed when they heard their “welcome home” briefing at arrival, at a special event on International Migrants Day (18 December) when returnees were invited to share their experience with an audience in Addis Ababa City Hall.

The crowd of eight hundred plus were filled with emotion as many were seen crying at the end of hearing the plight of the returnees. “Things might be better for the men; but as a woman most of us who travel through the ‘illegal’ means face a lot of difficulty and this often involves rape and physical abuse,” said one of the returnees as she told her bad experience.

Often the returnees share a feeling of confusion on what to do next, and are dissatisfied for not being able to collect all their belongings in a short period of time. Yet many told IOM that they are grateful for the assistance they receive and are relieved to be home nonetheless.

“This year’s International Migrants Day theme, ‘It’s Time to Take Action and Save Lives of Migrants Caught in Crisis” could not have come at a more appropriate time for Ethiopia as the country is welcoming a large number of returnees from Saudi Arabia,” said Okutoi.

For the Special Advisor of the Mayor of Addis Ababa on Social Affairs, Kemal Ahmed, irregular migration is posing a serious problem for the human and economic well-being in society.

“The Government of Ethiopia is taking action to formalize overseas employment, putting in place the appropriate legal and procedural frameworks,” said the Head of the Addis Ababa City Administration Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs, Ephrem Gizaw.

IOM and the Government of Ethiopia have been providing post arrival assistance to tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants expelled from Saudi Arabia since 13 November.

Source: African Press Association