25 July 2013

Ethiopia Halts Issuing Work Visas to Saudi Arabia

Addis Ababa — The Ethiopian government has suspended issuing work visas to business migrants from Saudi Arabia, according to a source from the Ethiopian ministry of labour and social affairs.

The decision follows Saudi Arabia's ban last week on domestic labourers from Ethiopia, forcing tens of thousands of undocumented Ethiopian workers to leave the kingdom.

The Ethiopian official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that Ethiopian authorities had revoked up to 35,000 work visas for housemaids destined for work in Saudi Arabia.

The official said the Ethiopian ban on Saudis will remain in place permanently unless a new labour agreement that respects the rights of migrating workers is reached between the two countries.

The move is also part of Ethiopia's efforts to prevent abuses of its nationals and control illegal recruitment by agents.

If Ethiopia insists on freezing work visas that it had already issued, the money which had already been spent by Saudi nationals to process workers' travel costs will have to be refunded.

Under new labour laws recently introduced, Saudi Arabia has deported at least 200,000 foreign immigrants since April.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities granted some 40,000 Ethiopians a three-month extension to legalise their status or face expulsion.

The newly-introduced labour laws aims to cut jobs occupied by foreign workers and create jobs for millions of unemployed Saudi citizens.

Thousands of Ethiopian domestic workers flood the oil wealthy nation seeking lucrative jobs, although most are subjected to inhuman treatment, with some taking their own lives as a result.

Mulunesh Alemayo, 44, who was herself a victim of such abuses in Saudi Arabia, has established a centre to help women who have returned home with mental illness as a result of the treatment they received by their employers.

At her rehab centre in Addis Ababa, Alemayo helps young Ethiopian women aged between 18 and 29 to recover from depression and other types of trauma.

Alemayo told Sudan Tribune that she finds most of the patients upon arrival at Addis Ababa airport.

According to her, victims suffer rape, burns and other forms of torture from their employers.

She said most of the victims don't have relatives and that those who have prefer not to speak about their experiences.

She recommends workers be given legal labour agreements to guarantee their pay, conditions and rights before they leave for work overseas.

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