Ethiopian gov't slams 'unacceptable' violence in Saudi raids

(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

The Ethiopian government has described violence in relation to a crackdown on illegal workers in Saudi Arabia as “unacceptable” and called on the Saudi government to intervene.

Saudi police have admitted shooting dead an Ethiopian man during a raid last week that rounded up hundreds of suspected illegal residents and transported them to a detention centre to await deportation.

Two other people died during a riot against the crackdown on Saturday night. One of the dead was a Saudi man hit in the head with a rock, while the other person’s identity has not been revealed but is believed to be an illegal resident.

“This is unacceptable. We call on the Saudi government to investigate this issue seriously,” Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom told Reuters.

“We are also happy to take our citizens, who should be treated with dignity while they are [in Saudi Arabia].”

Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are caught up in the kingdom’s controversial push to clean out foreign labourers who do not have proper visas.

While some were able to rectify their visa status during a six-month amnesty that ended on November 3, a significant number were unable to because they arrived illegally, were unable to resolve a dispute with their first employer or do not have a job.

The Ethiopian government said on Saturday it was repatriating citizens who had failed to meet the deadline.

Similar efforts are being made by the governments and embassies of other countries that have large numbers of citizens working in Saudi Arabia, including Sudan, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Saudi authorities said about 4m foreigners rectified their status during the amnesty and a further 1m took advantage of the free pass to return home.

The crackdown has been criticised for being too hasty and not giving workers sufficient time to obtain the required documents and clarify their positions.

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