Ethiopia has brought home close to 140,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday, a month after the oil-rich kingdom started deporting undocumented migrants.
Thousands are continuing to arrive daily from Saudi Arabia, where a seven-month amnesty period for migrants expired in November and where Ethiopia says three of its nationals were killed in police clashes as the migrants prepared to leave.
“Ethiopia and IOM are now looking at an additional 35,000 migrants expected to arrive from the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and new arrivals from Medina,” the IOM said in a statement.
The organisation said the massive influx of returnees, which began on November 13, has severely strained resources, and appealed for financial support to continue providing “humanitarian assistance” to thousands of people.
Ethiopia initially expected around 30,000 citizens to return home, but now expects 150,000 will fly back in what has become the largest human airlift in recent history.
The country now faces the difficult task of reintegrating tens of thousands of people, many of whom have returned with no savings or belongings.
Each year, large numbers of Ethiopians travel to the Middle East seeking work. Last year, 200,000 women sought work overseas, according to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labour.
Many migrants face mental and physical abuse, low pay, sexual violence and discrimination, according to the IOM.
Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, but the majority of the population earns less than two dollars a day. Unemployment in Ethiopia’s cities is around 20 percent, according to the IOM.