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Ethiopia to Repatriate 70,000 Nationals from Saudi Arabia in April

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Ethiopia has announced plans to repatriate approximately 70,000 of its citizens residing in Saudi Arabia, with the process set to commence in early April. State Minister Birtukan Ayano stated that the repatriation initiative, the third of its kind since 2018, aims to assist Ethiopians facing challenging circumstances in the Gulf nation.

While details regarding the legal status of the returnees were not explicitly provided during the announcement last week, regional administrations are tasked with facilitating their resettlement in their respective home areas within Ethiopia.

The repatriation process will cover expenses such as flight tickets, temporary accommodation at transition centers in Addis Ababa, and financial assistance to support the returnees in rebuilding their lives.

Ethiopia currently hosts approximately 917,000 refugees from neighboring countries like Yemen. Moreover, data from the Ethiopian Refugees and Returnees Service (RSS) indicates that four million Ethiopians have been displaced due to internal conflicts and environmental challenges.

However, funding cuts for these vulnerable groups have exacerbated the situation. In response, on March 22, the RSS and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) convened stakeholders in Addis Ababa to address the rising fund cuts for refugee operations in Ethiopia and to appeal to partners and donors for urgently needed financial support.

This latest repatriation effort follows a similar agreement reached between Addis Ababa and Riyadh in March 2022, aiming to repatriate over 100,000 Ethiopian nationals from Saudi Arabia. The move came amidst allegations of mistreatment of foreign laborers in the Gulf nation, as highlighted by rights groups.