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News: Despite distress reports, Ethiopian gov’t stays determined to send half a million migrant workers

Yesterday, Amy Pope (left), the newly elected and first woman Director General of the IOM, met with Muferiat Kamil, the Minister of Labor and Skills, to discuss various topics, including difficulties within the foreign employment sector (Photo: Ministry of Labor and Skills/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – Despite alarming reports of distress suffered by Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers, particularly in the Middle East, the Ethiopian government remains determined to send up to half a million individuals through its migrant-worker program this year.

Recent data reveals that last year alone, over 100,000 Ethiopians migrated primarily to Middle Eastern countries under this initiative. In her annual opening speech at the joint session by the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) and House of Federation (HoF), President Sahle-Work Zewde said the government intends to send 500,000 Ethiopian migrant workers this year.

The migrant worker program is supported by the Ethiopian Labor Market Information System (E-LMIS), a portal-based solution that acts as an intermediary between workers and employers in the labor market. Its purpose is to bridge existing physical gaps, facilitating smoother and more efficient communication and interaction. Officials believe that E-LMIS will play a crucial role in benefiting both the countries of origin and destination of migrants.

During a migration management system forum held in Addis Abeba recently, Assegid Getachew, the State Minister for Labor and Skills, highlighted that the implementation of E-LMIS has enabled the creation of unparalleled capacity in the foreign employment sector. However, despite the prevailing optimism, the actual situation on the ground appears to be different.

Last month, The Globe and Mail, a Canada-based news media company, published a news report claiming that the Ethiopian government is using social media, specifically Facebook advertisements, to deceive Ethiopian workers with false guarantees of secure employment and stable incomes in Saudi Arabia.

The newspaper identified approximately 300 recruitment posts on Facebook from various Ethiopian state agencies, providing misleading information to entice Ethiopian women to register for the Saudi recruitment campaign.

The migrant-worker program has also faced strong censure from human rights groups due to its perilous working conditions, exploitation, and mistreatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia without repercussions. In April 2023, the organization Freedom United, which combats human trafficking, revealed that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian women are being coerced by their own government to work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, known for its history of abuse and torture.

The issue was a matter of concern for Amy Pope, the first woman Director General of the IOM. She arrived in Addis Abeba on 8 October, 2023, for an official working visit and to meet with leaders of the African Union and Ethiopian government officials. Pope commenced her five-year term as the eleventh Director General of the IOM on 1 October, 2023.

During a press conference held yesterday in Addis Abeba, Pope advocated for the creation of regular pathways to migration. She also discussed the role of E-LMIS in easing the labor market during her meeting with Muferiat Kamil, the Minister of Labor and Skills.

During her visit, Pope also addressed the issue of migration to the Gulf States. In August 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report claiming that Saudi border guards have fatally injured hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers while attempting to cross the Yemen-Saudi border since March 2022. HRW suggested that these killings, if sanctioned by the Saudi government, could be classified as crimes against humanity.

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Following the release of the HRW report, the Ethiopian government announced its intention to promptly investigate the incident in collaboration with Saudi authorities. Officials state that they are actively taking measures to prevent and alleviate the challenges faced by Ethiopian migrant workers.

At a recent migration management system forum, Assegid, the State Minister for Jobs and Skills, declared the establishment of a national technical task force dedicated to addressing difficulties within the foreign employment sector and streamlining operations. This task force comprises experts from diverse ministries, employment agencies, and workers’ federations working together to find effective solutions. AS

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