The foreign ministry’s statement late Tuesday came after Saudi officials began a crackdown against undocumented migrants, including tens of thousands of Ethiopians.
“The government is working with Saudi Arabia to safely return our citizens home,” the ministry’s director general of diaspora affairs, Demeke Atinafu, told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.
Ethiopian officials have said more than 70,000 people have returned home since Saudi Arabia in March ordered all undocumented migrants to leave. The order was later extended until June but the majority of migrants remained. Those who don’t leave face forced deportation and a range of fines.
More than 400,000 Ethiopian migrants are estimated to live in Saudi Arabia, most working as domestic workers and farm workers.
Most Ethiopian migrant workers enter Saudi Arabia illegally through neighboring Yemen and send home money which, in many cases, is the only means for relatives to get by. Human Rights Watch has estimated that Ethiopian migrants globally sent home more than $4 billion in 2015.
“In many other countries, these Ethiopians could claim asylum and potentially be entitled to international protection,” the rights group said of the migrants in Saudi Arabia. “The problem is, Saudi has no refugee law and no asylum system.”