50,000 Ethiopians return as Saudi Arabia extends amnesty period

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Fifty thousand Ethiopians have returned home as the Saudi Arabian government extended the initial amnesty period by one month, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

Close to 111,000 undocumented Ethiopians have so far secured their exit visa to return home as Saudi Arabia extended the amnesty after the initial 90-day grace period came to an end last week, local media FBC quoted Meles Alem, Spokesperson of the Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as saying.

However, the number of the already returned 50,000 Ethiopians and the other 111,000 who have secured their exit visa to return home are still insignificant compared with the estimated 400,000 undocumented Ethiopians living in the Middle East’s largest economy, where they take jobs ranging from maids to construction workers.

In March, the Saudi Arabian government announced the 90-day amnesty granting undocumented foreign nationals to leave the country without facing any penalties.

Thousands of undocumented Ethiopians were still in Saudi Arabia as the initial grace period expired last week, which forced the Ethiopian government to appeal for an extension of the amnesty.

With an eye to curbing illegal migration, the Ethiopian government had recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Arabian government for an overseas employment agreement to help future legal Ethiopian migrant.

The approaching deadline has recalled painful memories of Ethiopians during the last massive deportation in November 2013, when many illegal Ethiopian migrants ended in Saudi detention camps or driven back home penniless.

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