Ethiopia says Saudi Arabia to release 1,000 detained migrants

Ethiopia says Saudi Arabia to release 1,000 detained migrants
Abiy Ahmed's trip to Saudi Arabia marks his first official visit to a non-African country since becoming prime minister in April.
2 min read
Ethiopia's PM embarks on a foreign trip [Getty]
More than 1,000 Ethiopians will be released from detention centres across Saudi Arabia following a request by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who arrived in Riyadh on Friday as part of an official visit.

The release of Ethiopians held in custody will start on Saturday, according to government spokesman Ahmed Shide. 

Saudi Arabia began mass deportations of illegal migrants, including tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis, in November after several months of warnings. Saudi authorities have said the kingdom detained around 250,000 people violating its residency laws in a crackdown.

An estimated 400,000 Ethiopian migrants were believed to be living in Saudi Arabia as of late last year. They form a large percentage of the 10 million migrants living and working in the kingdom. 

Upon their return home, many described beatings and theft during their stays in the kingdom's prison camps. With many eyes on Mediterranean sea crossings, the stories of African migrants in the Gulf highlighted an overlooked and dangerous migrant route that is one of the world's busiest. 

Saudi Arabia draws hundreds of thousands of East Africans. They pay traffickers to cross narrow waters to reach Yemen, where from there they arrive in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia ordered all undocumented migrants to leave in March, but the order was extended following discussions with African leaders.  

Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf countries, has been accused by rights groups for the poor treatment of migrants and the sponsorship system through which most arrive. 

Although a significant number of Ethiopians arrived for economic reasons, many were fleeing government abuse at home. An August 2017 Human Rights Watch report noted that several were detained and tortured upon their return to Ethiopia.

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