Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have driven to migrate to Saudi Arabia over the past decades because of the factors of economic difficulties, drought, and human right abuses. They travel by boat over the Red Sea and then by land through Yemen to Saudi Arabia. Most travel informally and have no legal status when they reach Saudi Arabia.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed the deported Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia between December 2018 and May 2019. Deported people from Saudi Arabia usually arrive in Addis Ababa at Bole International Airport. Most deportees with no belongings and money for food, transportation, or shelter. They receive little support to deal with physical and psychological injuries and transportation to their home communities far from the capital Addis Ababa.
Among the reasons for this, according to the report of HRW, much of the migration funding from Ethiopia’s development partners are specifically allocated to manage migration along the routes from the Horn of Africa to Europe and to assist Ethiopians being returned from Europe, with little left to support returnees from Saudi Arabia.
All deportees said that they returned with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Authorities in Saudi taken their mobile phones and sometimes their shoes and belts. One of the deportees said, “After staying in Jeddah … they had us make a line and take off our shoes. Anything that could tie like a belt we had to leave, they wouldn’t let us take it. We were barefoot when we went to the airport.”
Furthermore, the deportees usually have a critical need for assistance, including medical care, sometimes for a gunshot wound, HRW report. One of them said that he had no money to buy food and going hungry. The other one said he weighed 64kgs when he left for Saudi Arabia but returned weighing 48.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated 500,000 Ethiopians were in Saudi Arabia when the Saudi government began a deportation campaign called “A Nation Without Violation,” in November 2017. About 260,000 Ethiopians were deported from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia within May 2017, and March 2019, and deportations have continued, according to IOM.
Additionally, these migrants face lots of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia; Authorities have arrested, prosecuted, or deported foreigners without legal status. According to the HRW report, Authorities in Ethiopia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia have taken few if any measures stop violence migrants face, or to check abuses presented by their security forces, or help them to reintegrate their home villages.