Is Ethiopia ignoring its citizens stranded on the Saudi-Yemen border?

Ethiopia continues to ignore its stranded citizens on Saudi-Yemen border

By Murat Sofuoglu, October 16, 2020

Ethiopia ignoring its citizens
Addis Ababa appears to be doing very little to protect its migrant citizens who are facing brutality of both the Saudi government and Yemen’s Houthis rebels.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants have been living in inhumane conditions across the Arabian Peninsula for the last six months, as both the Saudis and their rivals in Yemen, the Houthis, have rendered their living conditions unbearable, according to human rights groups.

The Ethiopian government is yet to own the responsibility for their stranded citizens and save them from the abuse and squalid conditions, as they continue to be stuck between the two warring sides in the Yemen conflict. 

“The Ethiopian government must intervene now. I remember being in Addis Ababa a while back and seeing a plane load of sort of evacuees coming from the Middle East – particularly, I think those from Saudi Arabia and not anywhere else – destitute in their looks,” says Abdi Samatar, professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a research fellow at the University of Pretoria.

More than 30,000 Ethiopian migrants have been held in Saudi detention centres, where living conditions are poor and unhealthy, according to a recent EU Parliament resolution.

The Ethiopian government needs to take responsibility for its own citizens and find ways to bring back migrants from both Saudi Arabia and Yemen and other places, Samatar, who’s an expert on eastern Africa, tells TRT World.

But Addis Ababa hasn’t yet chalked out a concrete plan to repatriate its citizens from the Arabian Peninsula in the near future.

“With the high number of migrants in various host countries, the government will not have sufficient resources to repatriate everyone at the same time,” said Tsion Teklu, an Ethiopian state minister for foreign affairs, last month.

In the past few months, the living conditions of Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia have deteriorated to an extent that several human rights groups have taken note of it, prompting the European parliament to condemn the Saudi government.

The Ethiopian government needs to take responsibility for its own citizens and find ways to bring back migrants from both Saudi Arabia and Yemen and other places, where they have been stranded, say experts. (Credit: Telegraph Exclusive / The Telegraph)

As the oil-rich kingdom refuses to be accountable for these stranded migrants, their numbers are also increasing in Saudi’s squalid detention centers.

When Teklu was talking about not having “sufficient resources to repatriate” her citizens, she estimated the number of migrants held in Saudi Arabia around 14,000 in mid-September.

However, since then, the numbers have not decreased at all. Instead, the number of migrants held in Saudi detention centres have doubled, according to different sources.

Last week, when the EU Parliament condemned the Saudi mistreatment of Ethiopian migrants, the non-binding resolution said that “since April 2020, according to Human Rights Watch reports, around 30 000 Ethiopian migrants, including pregnant women and children, are being arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia under horrific conditions after having been forcibly expelled from northern Yemen by Houthi authorities.”

Nadia Hardman, who was the leading researcher of the HRW, conducting in-depth interviews with the Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Ethiopia, says that 16,000 Ethiopians have been held in just one of the Saudi facilities, according to the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah.

“We can just imagine how many are in other (detention centers),” Hardman tells TRT World.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Ethiopian government has continued to claim that they do not have the capacity to process all these people coming back.

But Hardman thinks that Addis Ababa could develop a plan to repatriate its citizens.

“We think there are ways they can do that,” she says.

An illegal immigrant from Ethiopia covers his face as he waits with others for a boat to cross into Yemen outside the town of Obock, north Djibouti on February 22, 2015. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters Archive)

The Ethiopian government could ask for help from international agencies such as International Organisation for Migration (IOA) and UNHCR, which is the UN Refugee Agency, to facilitate the repatriation process of their citizens to the country, according to Hardman.

“Ethiopians have facilitated some return flights, but they are not really many,” Hardman says.

But it appears to be that the Ethiopian government is not doing enough to reach those agencies.

Even worse, Addis Ababa has reportedly tried to suppress the Ethiopian migrants held in Saudi detention centers not to speak up about their terrible conditions.

In September, The Telegraph newspaper documented how the Ethiopian government was threatening its own citizens held in detention centres with “legal repercussions” if they shared photos and videos from the detention centres on social media.

Hardman confirms that.

“We saw a leaked document that The Telegraph obtained where the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah was telling the Ethiopians to please stop sharing photos and videos with the world, this is not helping,” Hardman says.

“This is unbelievable in the middle of this crisis,” she says.

Ethiopia, which is currently building the biggest dam in Africa, has strong connections with Saudi Arabia, which is a big supplier of foreign exchange and investment to the country.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia has cracked down on Ethiopian migrants, which were estimated to be total 500,000 in 2017 across the kingdom, according to the IOM.


  1. Ethiopians fleeing their home country to save their lives traveling through dangerous journeys in exile to Europe would have all been getting their heads chopped off if it was not for the great President Donald J. Trump who skillfully got the Egyptian government to secure the North African region by combating IS Islamic State militants. Ethiopians victims of state terrorism within Ethiopia who previously had managed to become refugees in USA eventually becoming USA citizens over the years should feel empathy for those Ethiopians who are on the way fleeing Ethiopia to save their lives currently . If it was not for Donald J. Trump the Ethiopian refugees would have gotten slaughtered or forcefully brain washed made to join IS Islamic State militants by being handed out AK-47s to fight for IS Islamic State. . But because the early interention Donald J. Trump took by convincing Al Sisi to take action against IS Islamic State the Ethiopian refugees are relatively safe during their journeys in Northern part of Africa to reach their destinations of safety as most of us Ethiopians-Anericans once did embarked on dangerous journeys in the past we should feel empathy for our people who are on the way as we speak . IS Islamic State is now forced to abandon it’s strong hold territories in Lybia , Africa thanks to the visionary leader Donald J. Trump who expressed his strong desire for him being the one personally cutting the ribbon when GERD’s construction project is completed and gets inaugurated.Trump wanted and is doing everything he could to bring agreement through constant negotiations.Trump knows the unnecessary war Ethiopians fight costs us dearly paying with our children’s lives . Just remember how many of our children lost their lives and got disabled during the Ethio-Eritrean war just because the Ethiopian leaders and the Eritrean leaders failed to have a dialogue to reach an agreement. That’s why Trump is pressuring the governments of Egypt , Sudan and Ethiopia to hold talks and reach an agreement through continuous negotiations.
    Donald J. Trump knows Ethiopia had been receiving aids in bulks for decades from USA with no sign of progress in the human developmental index (HDI) of Ethiopians clearly showing there are few elites who benefit from the aids USA sends while the people suffer being unable to afford the cost of living in Ethiopia, only the elites can afford the cost of living . The elites government officials got their eyes on aid money and loan money they get from USA the Ethiopian government often overlook their duty to grow productions in Ethiopia. The government officials are highly dependent on aid for their budget which made them neglect to protect the 85% Ethiopians who depend on farming. For example the current locust infestation within Ethiopia could have been easily prevented if the narcissist Ethiopian government paid attention to the warnings the current government recieved more than half a year ago. India and Pakistan governments took measures ahead of time to destroy the breeding grounds of the desert locusts before the locusts arrived preventing loss of farm production tremendously but Ethiopia let the locusts arrive with ample breeding grounds for the desert locusts resulting in biblical proportions loss of farm crops in Ethiopia. Now it is obvious Ethiopia will ask humanitarian food aid and beg USA for it. So rather than giving over a billion dollars in aid to Ethiopia as USA gave to Egypt , the wise President Donald J. Trump gave less than half a billion in aid to Ethiopia getting ready to help out in disaster humanitarian aid to Ethiopia as it is becoming desperately needed making it a life and death issue for 10’s of millions of Ethiopians. We can not talk about development while our stomachs are empty. We cannot buy a pant when we don’t have an underwear. First we put on the underwear then the pant. . If Biden gets elected Ethiopia will not be able to get the humanitarian aid in bulk as if the generous visionary realistic Trump gets elected again for another four terms so vote for Donald J. Trump who knows the reality in Ethiopia because he is in touch with the realities of the lives of the ordinary citizens of Ethiopia. If you fail to vote for Donald J. Trump, just remember that you failed to protect the ordinary citizens in Ethiopia from the disaster they are facing .Act now or regret later, the choice is yours!

  2. These individuals had been ignored by Ethiopia even when they were living in Ethiopia. Most are from abusive families whose parents hurt them emotionally not to mention physically . The society by itself had failed them by turning Ethiopia into a lawless criminals play ground with fake religious teachers and ethnic crime syndicates ruling every aspect of life in Ethiopia ever since the majority of these migrants were born. These people had no where to go back to but to keep marching away from Ethiopia in search of life in foreign lands because their own country had ignored them all their lives , they had little education and a lot of abuse and a lot of neglect all their lives.

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