Ethiopian Migrants Expelled by Saudis Remain in Limbo Back Home

The New York Times

Mohammed Jemal, forefront, returning home after being deportated from Saudi Arabia. / New York Times
Mohammed Jemal, forefront, returning home after being deportated from Saudi Arabia. / New York Times

LEGUAMA, Ethiopia — Mohammed Jemal left Ethiopia two years ago. He wanted to be independent, to support his family — and to escape the mockery of having squandered a big chance for a better life.

“I went to college and dropped out. I somehow failed,” he said. If he had gone back home and started a simple life with a poorly paid job, he said, “people would have called my family names.”

So, like many Ethiopians, Mr. Mohammed left his small, rural hometown in central Ethiopia to seek his fortune in Saudi Arabia. He entered the country illegally, he said, having walked most of the way through Djibouti and Yemen. Once he got there, he said, he worked as a guard and receptionist.

Despite the many challenges, the money was worth it, he recalled thinking, until he was tossed out of the country in a mass deportation in which nearly a million people who had entered the country illegally from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia were pushed out of Saudi Arabia last year, according to the International Labor Organization.

For decades, rich Arab countries in the Middle East have been a major destination for migrant workers from developing nations. Deportations had happened before, but the scale of the recent expulsions from Saudi Arabia is virtually unheard-of, the labor organization said.

About 150,000 Ethiopians have been forced out of the country. Their expulsion puts the Ethiopian government under strain because the remittances they sent had greatly contributed to the country, which has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies but is still very poor. Read more…

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