Ethiopian Government Defends Saudi Arabia after Shocking Migrants Report

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia defended the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a report by The Sunday Telegraph, a newspaper publication based in London, exposed the hellish conditions in which the Gulf State is keeping African migrants locked in detention centers.

In a press release issued today, September 3, 2020, the Ministry stated that Saudi has always been willing to work with the Ethiopian government collaboratively, and it is assisting the increasing number of Ethiopian migrants crossing the border despite the international pressure.

The Ministry further extended its “sincere appreciation” to the Kingdom on behalf of the Ethiopian government for the “outstanding support extended to our citizens in general and Ethiopian irregular migrants in particular,”.

The Ministry’s statement comes after five days the investigation report by The Sunday Telegraph was first published on October 30, 2020.  

The report titled “Investigation: African migrants’ left to die’ in Saudi Arabia’s hellish Covid detention centres” detailed the horrific conditions African migrants are held in detention centers and includes graphic images.

According to the report, when the Coronavirus pandemic struck the Kingdom, the Saudi government feared migrants would act as vectors for the virus and started detaining and deporting African immigrants.

But as international pressure was put on the Gulf state, it halted its deportation operations. Those who were slated for deportation were left to rot in disease-ridden detention centers for five months.  

According to The Sunday Telegraph, the detention centers house mainly Ethiopian men and contain hundreds if not thousands of African migrants.

The report that gathered testimonies from the migrants in the detention center showcased that detainee’s conditions are so bad that they are dying. Plenty of inmates are suicidal or suffering from mental illnesses resulting from living this for five months. The migrants also stated that the guards at the centers beat and racial abuse them.

The report that was widely shared by other international media outlets immediately resulted in international condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the centers’ conditions.

Human rights groups, politicians, and Black Lives Matters activists forwarded there criticism and condemnation.  

The British government said it was “very concerned,” and in Geneva, a spokesperson for the UN’s International Office of Migration (IOM) told The Sunday Telegraph they were “deeply concerned about the troubling images of Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi Arabia, in apparently inhumane conditions.” 

Saudi Arabia has also agreed to investigate the conditions of the centers. However, the Ethiopian government has chosen to stand on the side of Saudi in this international crisis.

The Ministry of Foreign affairs stated that the Ethiopian government is closely working with the Kingdom in many areas, and assisting migrants is its priority.

The Ministry’s press release stated that the increasing number of migrants crossing the border to Saudi is escalating, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is accepting them despite their growing number and that the government of Ethiopia was always thankful for it.

However, the Saudi government did not show the same appreciation and support to its Ethiopian counterpart. In a statement sent to The Sunday Telegraph by the Saudi Arabian embassy in London, the Saudi’s shifted the blame on the Ethiopian government.

“The Ethiopian authorities have refused their re-entry under the claim of not being able to provide adequate quarantine facilities upon their arrival,” Saudi Arabia said. 

Replying to these allegations the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign affairs stated that Ethiopia has never refused to receive its citizens from any country but operates according to principle and the availability of resources and capacity

 “We all have to understand the enormity and complexity of the process of illegal migration and repatriation. Repatriation cannot be a goal by itself, and it should be done in a safe and dignified manner,” reads the Ministry’s statement.  

“Our government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have noticed a vicious circle of many repatriated migrants trafficked back for ten times and more,” added the statement.

The Ministry also added that dealing with immigrants has become a full-time engagement for many diplomats in Ethiopian Embassy in Riyadh and the consulate office in Jeddah.

The Ethiopian government claims to have repatriated over 400000 citizens from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from May 2017 to March 2020 and 3500 citizens after the pandemic hit.

The Ministry added that it was resuming the repatriation of Ethiopians from Saudi, and it was bringing back 2000 citizens beginning from September 8, 2020.

The one and half page statement that thanked the Saudis four times forwarded another appreciation to the Kingdom before it ended its press release. 

The statement concluded that “with a generous offer by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Ethiopian government is working on projects to solve the migrant problems from the source regions.