Dr. Mohammad Hasan Kabeera said it was difficult to estimate the number of Ethiopians in the Kingdom because they are being recruited through various means. He said 97 percent of Ethiopian housekeepers in the Kingdom are religious and do not practice sorcery.
He said the embassy has participated in efforts to maintain calm in Riyadh’s Manfuhah neighborhood after recent riots involving Ethiopians there. The embassy has also discussed with police the various problems with Ethiopian nationals and the possibility of expediting the deportation of those who wish to leave the country.
The embassy has met with a number of residency violators and asked them to cooperate with the authorities to reach amicable solutions to their problems.
"Ethiopians are recruited into the country through recruitment offices, personal recruitment and other means, making it difficult to know the true number of housekeepers in the Kingdom," he added.
He said there would be future discussions between Saudi and Ethiopian authorities regarding the continuation of recruitment of Ethiopian nationals.
The ambassador said most Ethiopians are either Muslims or Christians and said their beliefs prevent them from practicing sorcery.
He said: “There is a large number of Ethiopians working in Europe, the USA, and even in other African countries as housekeepers and many other professions. The possibility of recruiting workers other than housekeepers will be discussed with the Saudi authorities in the near future.”
He pointed out that one of the most important problems in recruiting Ethiopians to work in Saudi Arabia is the lack of an agreement that defines the right of workers and their sponsors.
The Ethiopian government, he said, is educating workers on the importance of not getting involved in any criminal activities and providing them with the necessary training.
However, this training does not seem to be efficient and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education was instructed to revise its training for workers and housekeepers, he said.
He said: “There are only a few number of Ethiopian housekeepers who were accused of criminal activities and some of them have suffered from psychological problems after they had come to the Kingdom.
“Even those with psychological problems did not have any criminal records in Ethiopia and should be investigated to understand the root cause of their problems.”
The ambassador said housekeepers are complaining about many problems with their sponsors, including breaches of their contracts.
In addition, many complain that they are not receiving their salaries on time, if at all, are not provided with medical treatment when required, are not allowed to call their families at home, and are verbally and physically abused. However, he added, there are many Saudi sponsors who treat housekeepers as members of their families.
He said Saudi security bodies do not inform the Ethiopian Embassy of detained Ethiopian nationals, so it is impossible to know how many nationals are in custody.
The problem of Ethiopians entering the Kingdom illegally is of great concern to the Ethiopian government and a national committee was set up to deal with the problem.
He said: “This problem cannot be controlled on the Ethiopian side only, but the transit country and country of arrival should also cooperate to tackle the problem.
“In addition, not all infiltrators into the Kingdom are Ethiopian and accusing them of all crimes in the Kingdom is wrong.”
He said the embassy has set up a committee in Riyadh to advise and educate legal Ethiopian residents, while those detained are provided with temporary travel documents to return home.