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Faith Nyasuguta 

Ethiopia has distanced itself from a recent report issued by a rights group that revealed it is mistreating thousands of Tigrayans  deported from Saudi Arabia.

According to the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Dina Mufti, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report was an irresponsible move to downgrade the government’s efforts.

“The report is not only unsubstantiated but an irresponsible move that aimed to discredit all the efforts that the Ethiopian government has been doing to relieve the pains of our citizens that have returned from Saudi Arabia”

“We have repatriated more than 40,000 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia in just a couple of months regardless of which ethnic group that they belong to,” Dina added.

On Wednesday, the HRW said hundreds of Tigrayans who had been deported from Saudi Arabia, where they had sought work, were landing at Addis Ababa airport only to be detained in congested and squalid conditions.

However, Dina noted that the government was actually ensuring the group was not taken to a war zone.

“On the other hand, the Government of Ethiopia is aware of the ongoing plights of Ethiopians in various detention centres in Saudi Arabia.”

“Cognisant of this fact, a committee that comprises high-level government officials, religious leaders, and various stakeholders is finalizing preparations to head to Saudi Arabia to discuss measures in this regard,” Dina added.

Demonstrators march in Washington, DC on November 4, 2021, marking the one-year anniversary of the Ethiopian government’s decision to deploy troops into the country’s northernmost Tigray region.PHOTO | OLIVIER DOULIERY | AFP

In January last year, the Ethiopian government announced it would join hands in the repatriation of 40,000 of its nationals held in Saudi Arabia, beginning with 1,000 a week, HRW said.

About 40 percent of the returnees from Saudi Arabia between November 2020 and June 2021 were Tigrayans, it added.

Further, the deportations jumped significantly between late June and mid-July, with over 30,000 reportedly deported.

“The surge in repatriations coincided with an increase in profiling, arbitrary detentions, and forcible disappearances of Tigrayans by Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa following the withdrawal of Ethiopian federal forces from the Tigray region and an expansion of the Tigray conflict,” HRW said.

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Faith Nyasuguta