Ethiopia: Deported From Saudi Arabia, Ethiopian Migrants Find Dilemma At Home

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"My main aim was to go there and earn more money, since I have seen a number of people from our locality that traveled there and changed their lives. My status was actually illegal since I [did not] have proper documents to live and work there," Sophia told IRIN.

Her parents used the money she sent home "mainly to buy food," she said.

She told IRIN she would not consider returning to Saudi Arabia.

"I will work here in my country because I have seen enough suffering in the past month alone. They kept us in camps in an inhumane way until our arrival here."

Mursan Ali, 36

Mursan Ali, a 36-year-old father of two, travelled to Saudi Arabia two years ago. His journey involved walking to the coast of Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden, surviving only on the food he carried and a bottle of water, and sleeping unprotected on the ground at night for five days. From there, his smugglers put him on the boat to Yemen.

But the boat was wrecked off the coast of Yemen; Ali was among 35 people rescued. He and the other migrants were taken to a Yemeni prison, where they spent six months before being transferred to a camp to await deportation.

"A number of us managed to escape out of it [the camp] and joined the workforce," Ali told IRIN.

After his escape, he trekked overland to Saudi Arabia.

"I was working as a metal worker and was earning [about] 1,500 Saudi riyals [$400] at the time. I cannot make that much money here in Ethiopia."

To pay his smugglers, he had saved 4,000 birr [$209] out of the 50 birr daily wage he earned as a construction worker in the capital, Addis Ababa.

"My family is poor, and all I have known is poverty. I wanted to earn enough money to help my family, and people told me about jobs in Saudi Arabia which were paying [better] than what I earned as manual laborer in Ethiopia," he told IRIN.

He hopes that the Ethiopian government's promise to create more jobs can help halt irregular migration to the Middle East.


Tassew lives with his sister, Negash, a 35-year-old cleaner and mother of one, and another sibling Mesfin in a tiny tin-walled shack in Addis Ababa.

Tassew and Mesfin were among those deported from Saudi Arabia. Negash now supports both of them.

"They could support me when they were there," Negash told IRIN, "but now, I will use my small salary to support the four of us. It is hard because they came with nothing, and they will take a long time to get jobs here. They will burden me, but I can't send them away."

She added, "I saved a little of what they sent me to start a business, but now I can't [save money] because I will use it to provide for them and myself."

Tassew does not rule out looking for opportunities outside again. "If it is hard to go to Saudi Arabia, I will look out for other countries where I can find work. I can go to Sudan or somewhere, because here, it is hard to be employed," he said.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ethiopia "remains one of the world's poorest countries. About 29 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line".

Fatima, 23

Fatima,* 23, stayed in Saudi Arabia for just six months before she was deported.

She told IRIN, "I haven't finished paying my smugglers, and now they will want their money. I still owe them 5,000 birr [$260], and they will now auction my parents' property" through their agents in Addis Ababa, where her parents live.

"I was to pay them when I arrived and found a job in Saudi Arabia. I was deported before I could get enough money," she said.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

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Migrants Dilemma In Ethiopia

Ethiopian migrants deported from Saudi Arabia await registration at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa

At least 144,000 migrants have returned home from Saudi Arabia where they had gone in search of a better life, a number the government had not antcipated or budgeted for. Read more »