Ethiopia requests extension as it fails to meet Saudi deadline for stuck migrants

The Ethiopian government has requested for an extension of the 90-day amnesty for undocumented migrants to leave Saudi Arabia as the deadline expires on Wednesday.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that out of the over 400,000 citizens in the Gulf country, only 45,000 have returned home.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Meles Alem told local media that the number that returned is a small percentage of the 110,000 nationals who were helped to secure exit visas.

He added that the Ministry has requested for an extension from the Saudi authorities as it awaits a positive response.

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Ethiopia has one of the largest undocumented migrants in Saudi Arabia working as construction and domestic workers.

Local media reports that a number of them have complained of inability to afford tickets to leave the country.

The government sent envoys to help facilitate the repatriation via the national airline Ethiopian Airlines.

Saudi Arabia announced in March the 90-day grace period for undocumented migrants to leave the country or face a prison sentence, fines and then deportation after serving the prison sentence.

This follows a similar campaign launched in 2013 that saw more than 2.5 million undocumented migrants leave the country.

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The move is part of Saudi’s national campaign to rid the country of the huge number of illegal migrants.

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