Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ethiopia fears over 100,000 face Saudi expulsions

In a repatriation campaign of its citizen who are claimed to be working illegally in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopian government plans to bring home over 100,000 citizens, say government official.

“Until this time we have repatriated a total of 87,523 people and we hope to conclude the mission within the coming six or seven days,” said, Ethiopian government spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dina Mufti.

Out of the total returnees 4,051 are children while 28,943 are women, according to Dina, who, briefed journalists in his office on Tuesday.

Ho stated that the government has been providing necessary temporary shelter and health facilities for the people in collaboration with donors and private sector.

“After providing them with necessary services we send them to their localities to reintegrate themselves back with families,” he said.

To support Ethiopian government’s repatriation campaign, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided today US$ 100,000 worth of non-food aid items. The items include 10,000 blankets, 15,000 packs of sanitary pads, 30,000 bars of soap as well as an ambulance for use by IOM in the response effort.

Currently there are 64 camps in Saudi Arabia filled with immigrants of different countries from where Ethiopia is gathering its citizens and sending them back home, according to Ambassador Dina. Saudi Arabia has launched an aggressive crackdown on immigrants who are living without legal papers.

It was in early this year that the Saudi authorities announced plans to purge the kingdom of illegal migrants. Then in July another announcement followed when King Abdullah extended the deadline for the immigrants from July 3 to November 4, 2013 telling them to regularize their residency and employment status.

The current crackdown is a follow up action taken by the Saudi government.

Men and women are forced from their homes by mobs of civilians and dragged through the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah, according to social media reports over the past few weeks.

Distressing videos of Ethiopian men being mercilessly beaten, kicked and punched have circulated the Internet and triggered worldwide protests by members of the Ethiopian diaspora as well as outraged civilians in Ethiopia. Women report being raped, many repeatedly, by vigilantes and Saudi police.

In its report released this week Human Rights Watch call on Saudi authorities to investigate the crimes committed by Saudi citizens and security forces following the end of the deadline.

“Saudi authorities should immediately investigate assaults on Ethiopian and other migrant workers by security forces and Saudi citizens, and hold those responsible for violent crimes to account,” Human Rights Watch said.

Saudi authorities have spent months branding foreign workers as criminals in the media, and stirring up anti-migrant sentiment to justify the labour crackdown, according Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch says.

“Now the Saudi government needs to rein in Saudi citizens who are attacking foreign workers,” Joe Stork said.