1,400 Ethiopians freed from Saudi prisons

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry says it plans to bring the prisoners back home.
An Ethiopian migrant walks with his luggage on his way to board a ship repatriating him home via Djibouti, in the Yemeni rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida on June 2, 2018. (Photo by ABDO HYDER / AFP)

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that 1,400 of the country’s citizens had been freed from prison in Saudi Arabia.

A statement from the ministry did not mention a reason for the release, however in recent years Saudi Arabia has rounded up and jailed thousands of Ethiopians for illegally entering the kingdom. 

The ministry said that it planned to bring the prisoners back home.

“Three hundred of the 1,400 released Ethiopian prisoners will return home from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday evening,” while the others will return in the coming days, said the statement.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country.

Despite rapid economic growth over the past decade, many Ethiopians seek to try their luck elsewhere, mostly countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, even if they don’t have any visas and have to brave war zones like Yemen to get there.

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An estimated 334,000 Ethiopians migrated to the Middle East between 2006 and 2014, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a group of international organisations that monitor migration in East Africa and Yemen.

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