- Embassy denies issuing ordinary, business visa
Following Saudi Arabia’s mass expulsions of undocumented Ethiopian workers back in 2013, it is to be remembered that the government of Ethiopia has decided to impose an indefinite ban on domestic workers traveling to the Middle East and the Gulf States.
In contrast to that, long queues and commotion have been observed in some of the embassies belonging to the Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Many of the young folks flocking to the UAE embassy, situated around Sarbet area, in front of the MIDROC building, claim that they are applying for visas to travel to the UAE in search of jobs. Most of the claimants are coming from rural parts of the country.
However, UAE’s embassy in Addis Ababa denies issuing ordinary or business travel visas since the imposition. The embassy told The Reporter that only “medical authentication and diplomatic visas” are what they have been issuing so far. Yet, The Reporter has learnt that a good number of Ethiopians daily travel to Dubai at least holding business visas.
Girma Sheleme, public relations directorate director of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA) told The Reporter that there are no significant changes made to the standing direct employment ban which was reinforced by the new oversees employment proclamation issued last year. “Nor is there any bilateral agreements allowing domestic workers to travel to the Gulf States.”
Meles Alem, the newly appointed spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), told The Reporter that although there are some “ongoing negotiations” with the Gulf States due to be disclosed in the foreseeable future, at this moment there are no legal grounds for domestic workers to migrate to the Middle East. These negotiations are already overdue since they were expected to be finalized last year.
Nevertheless, the new proclamation did not prohibit domestic workers to go to Gulf countries if it is done through formal and organized agencies; and if they receive formal trainings.
One area of exercising the law, as the spokesperson of MoFA indicated, is via bilateral negotiations. Accordingly, it was last year that “Labor Exchange Agreements” with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was announced to reach final stages and to be signed. The bilateral agreements were anticipated to provide bargaining chip to the Ethiopian government to protect the rights and benefits of its citizens migrating in search of jobs mostly of housekeeping in nature. Since last year, however, the labor exchange agreements have been stalled for unknown reasons.
In the meantime, it seems that mass migration of domestic workers to the Middle East is on the rise in recent times. Multitudes of people are making their way to the Middle East despite continued accounts of abuse in the hands of employers. An illustration of that is a latest post on social media. Last week a video went viral showing an Ethiopian housemaid, tossing herself out of a skyscraper window in Kuwait while the employer stands by watching and filming the incident.
But last year’s negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia were reported to have been competed except agreement on minimum wages for domestic workers. The Ethiopian side wants to ensure better pay and working conditions for its citizens while Saudi Arabia pushes Ethiopian governments to assume responsibility for those undocumented workers, who have already been deported and who are trying to go back to the kingdom. The Saudis have requested Ethiopia to control the re-entry of deported citizens into Saudi Arabia.
According to statements made last year by officials of MoFA responsible for the Gulf Region, these were the issues wanting further negotiations and were ones standing between signing the accord.
According to previous statements, the Government of Ethiopia demanded a 1,200 Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) as a minimum wage for domestic workers in that country. But, Saudi’s offer was around 700 SAR. It is to be noted that Saudi receives the largest number domestic workers in the Gulf region. At the same, time the kingdom’s employers are accused of being the most notorious violators of basic rights.
It is the action of Saudi Arabia that prompted Ethiopia to impose a blanket travel ban on domestic workers to the region. Back in 2013, Saudi deported 100,000 Ethiopians and the brutality of the security forces have generated wide criticisms against the government of Ethiopia for failure to defend its citizens.