Thousands of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are in a state of limbo as they try to return home after being ordered to leave the Gulf state.
On March 29, Saudi Arabia launched a campaign it dubbed “Nation Without Violations,” giving all foreign immigrants living there illegally 90 days to leave without incurring a penalty. They were told they could return later after applying and going through the immigration process.
As of the beginning of July, 111,000 Ethiopians had agreed to leave Saudi Arabia and 45,000 had successfully returned to Ethiopia, according to Meles Alem, the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many remained stranded, however, due to an inability to get a seat on overbooked flights.
Saudi government officials believe there are about 400,000 Ethiopians living illegally in the country. Most are employed as maids or other domestic workers; they have few legal rights and endure widespread abuse.