Since 2017, approximately 400,000 Ethiopian migrants have been returned from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of the country’s campaign targeting irregular migrants. In April 2020, returns were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They resumed in September 2020 and stabilized at 1,000 returns/week in January 2021. On June 26, the rate of returns increased 15-fold to over 2,000 migrants daily as a result of an agreement between the two governments to deport 40,000 migrants in the span of two weeks. With such a dramatic upsurge in numbers the Government of Ethiopia, IOM and other actors have been hard pressed to deliver the necessary post-arrival assistance to this highly vulnerable group. Returns are expected to continue even after the 40,000 migrants have returned.
Many returnees will not be able to return to their homes due to security concerns in their communities or transit areas. Those who cannot reunify with family in safe areas will need support in Addis Ababa or elsewhere, including basic services, specialized support and temporary accommodation in the medium and long term.