Ethiopia issued 30K travel documents as Saudi deportation nears

Ethiopian government issued 30,000 Laissez-passer documents as part of its efforts to repatriate its citizens as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prepares for mass deportation.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry launched last month a high profile campaign to repatriate hundreds of thousands of its citizens residing and working in Saudi Arabia.

The move was prompted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s announcement to deport undocumented migrants. Saudi Arabia announced on March a 90-day period of “amnesty” in which foreigners without proper residence and work permit could leave without penalty.

The deadline runs out on June 29.

Map - Red Sea and Horn of Africa
Map – Red Sea and Horn of Africa

A similar mass deportation in 2013/2014 affected hundreds of thousands of foreign workers including more than 100,000 Ethiopians that were deported over the course of 4 months.

Saudi Arabian officials indicated up to one million undocumented migrants from African and Asian countries could be deported after the June deadline. Others estimate the figure of undocumented workers in the Arab state between 2 to 5 million.

The number of undocumented Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia is estimated up to 400,000. Since the last mass deportations, at least 260,000 Ethiopians traveled to Saudi Arabia irregularly; 2016 was a record year with 117,000 arrivals in Yemen.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry established a national task force to facilitate the repatriation. It also granted duty-free privileges permitting returnees bring home twenty one types of personal properties.

The Prime Minister officially joined the effort last week in a televised statement urging undocumented Ethiopians to leave Saudi Arabia before mass deportation begins.

About 30,000 undocumented Ethiopians without travel document received Laissez-passer document from diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia. However, a few thousand of them have actually returned so far.


Daniel Berhane

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