Friday, October 18, 2013

Ethiopia suspends Saudi Arabia travel for workers

Many domestic workers in the Middle East report some form of abuse. 
The Ethiopian government will impose a six-month ban on citizens looking to travel to Saudi Arabia in what it said was meant to minimise their mistreatment at the hands of Middle Eastern employers.

Speaking in parliament, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the suffering of Ethiopians working in Saudi Arabia, particularly as househelps, had continued to get worse.

"As of the next month we will not send our citizens to Saudi Arabia to work, for [at least] six months," he said while responding to questions by legislators on Thursday.

"We have seen that especially our sisters who go Saudi Arabia are facing severe problems…Therefore the solution our government chose is to stop the travel to these countries," the premier said.

"The main reason we do this is to make sure that our children get proper training and their rights and benefits should be respected when they go there."

"It will be very dangerous for to send them before we prepare such grounds for them. Therefore we plan to stop the travel for six months and finalise our preparation and then we will see if we allow them to go afterwards."

Mr Hailemariam said the government would focus on showing would-be economic migrants the job opportunities that exist in the country of close to 85 million before they decide to leave their homeland.

The unemployment rate in Ethiopia is high, leading to jobseekers looking outside the country, mainly in the oil-rich Gulf monarchies.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, has been 'importing' female servants for many decades. But in recent years many media outlets have reported increasing cases of abuses meted on the workers.

Restricted travel

In June 2011, following the beheading of an Indonesian maid convicted of killing her employer, Jakarta restricted the migration of its citizens to Saudi Arabia.

Filipino lawmakers also wrote a report detailing alleged abuses, including rapes and assault.

Since last year, Saudi Arabia has seemed to focus on attracting mainly Ethiopian ladies who provide cheap labour with pay of as low as $100 monthly. This has however been accompanied by reports of inhuman treatment at the hands of their employers.

According to official statistics, the number of Ethiopian migrant workers going to the Middle East increased sharply from 14,946 in 2010 to 198,667 in the 2011/12 fiscal year.

Over 90 per cent of these workers are female.

In 2011, Addis Ababa formed a national committee to deal with the continuous migration of Ethiopians mainly to the Middle East and South Africa, following reports of life-threatening harm and abuse, and even cases of death, on their arrival.