Open Letter to Ethiopian Foreign Minister
November 19, 2013
Re: Abuse of Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia
Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) is concerned about the recent abuse of Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, especially the reported torture, abuse and rape of Ethiopian women. CREW is a non-government, non-profit, non-partisan, human rights and peace organization established to promote the social, economic and legal rights of Ethiopian women in Ethiopia and worldwide. One of the objectives of the organization is to assist and represent abused Ethiopian women living and working abroad.
As documented through various media outlets, Saudi authorities launched a crackdown on undocumented migrant workers following the expiry of amnesty linked to a new employment rules. As results of this crackdown, migrant workers, particularly Ethiopians, have faced beatings, abuse, torture, and in some instances, even death. The videos and photos showed Ethiopians being thrown out in the streets with no shelter and food. There were also some reports of women being gang raped. Some of these women also shared their experiences and fears in the various media outlets posted online.
As you are aware of, thousands of Ethiopian women and young girls head to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern Arab countries each year to seek work opportunities. It is also known that many of them migrate to the Middle Eastern countries due to the extreme poverty in Ethiopia and the high rate of unemployment among the youth group and absence of opportunities to fulfill the basic needs of their families.
Through the years, various reports have documented that Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle Eastern countries have been treated like slaves. They are deprived of their sleep and they work under unacceptable working conditions. They often don't get their salaries and their passports are confiscated as soon as they enter the countries. The Ethiopian government knows these inhuman treatments of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle Eastern countries. The embassies and consulates of Ethiopia, however, did nothing to help their citizens unlike embassies and consulates from other countries; for example, the Philippine and Bangladesh. Many Ethiopians are in prison and detention centers in Saudi Arabia and other countries such as Lebanon, but their government did not protect them or send them back to their homeland. The absence of protection coupled with the inhuman treatment they face, the number of Ethiopian migrant workers who took their own lives is considerably high.
The current law passed by Saudi government should have only resulted in deporting undocumented migrants through appropriate channels, but what have been witnessed in the last few days are gross human right violations. These violations of rights are committed by Saudi police and civilians who were acting as vigilantes. The Ethiopian government should urge the Saudi government to undertake appropriate investigations into the deaths of the reported Ethiopians as well as the rapes of women and to hold those who have been involved accountable to their actions. Even though, at this time, the safety of those who may be still trying to return to their homeland is very important, we also urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that returnees, especially women, are afforded the appropriate care and assistance once they arrive in their country.
Although a bit late, CREW acknowledges the recent efforts of the Ethiopian government to repatriate Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia, but this action is only being undertaken after the reports of the current horrible situations of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia. Ethiopians should not be subjected to inhuman treatment abroad. We, therefore, call upon the Ethiopian embassy in Saudi Arabia to take up responsibility to assist Ethiopian citizens — as other nations have for their people — in adjusting their status and repatriating them in a timely manner so that they don’t continue to languish in detention.
As an organization working for the protection and promotion of the rights of Ethiopian women, we have obligations to seek justice for our sisters. Hence, the writing of this open letter to the Ethiopian government.
CREW is a non-government, non-profit, non-partisan, human rights and peace organization established to promote the social, economic and legal rights of Ethiopian women in Ethiopia and worldwide. We can be reached at email@example.com