By Addis Fortune,
Nearly two months after Ethiopia imposed a travel ban to the Middle East, the number of Ethiopian applicants for a visa at the Sudanese Embassy has increased dramatically.
On Thursday, November 28, 2013, when Fortune visited the compound located near Mexico Square – a little further down from the headquarters of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations (ECCSA) – hundreds of women applicants were lined up in long queues.
Undeterred by the scorching sun and filled with the hope of migrating to Kuwait via Sudan, an applicant, who requested anonymity, said she was using the only safe and reliable option to a better life.
“I am hoping to transit through Sudan and find a better life,” she said.
The queues seemed to be getting longer by the day and were already overwhelming the Embassy, as was witnessed with the longer queues on Friday.
Thursday’s lengthy line-up started early in the morning. Most of the applicants have come from different regional towns. With the process likely to take three to four days, applicants have to cover their hotel accommodation throughout the days they stay in Addis Ababa.
“I came here following rumors that Sudan has now become an alternative route to the Middle East,” Zebiba Ahmed, 27, who came from the West Hararghe Zone of Oromia Regional State, told Fortune.
Worknesh Waryo, 26, was one of those in the long queue on Thursday. Carrying a plastic bottle of water, Worknesh, who came from Dessie, the capital of South Wollo Zone in the Amhara Region – 401 kms away from Addis Abeba – says she worked in numerous low-skilled occupations, but with no meaningful change to her life.
“I thus decided to migrate,” she said.
Worknesh’s decision came a while ago. To her dismay, however, the Ethiopian government announced a sudden travel ban for migrant workers. It specifically targets workers like her, who travel to Arab countries to work in low-skilled jobs. She greeted the news with shock.
It was after nearly two months of confusion and hopelessness that she discovered the option of migrating via Sudan.
The number of applicants doubled and then tripled, particularly after Ethiopia’s sudden ban, according to an employee of the Embassy, who asked for anonymity.
“The Embassy is very busy, serving this unexpected flood of visa applicants each morning,” he said.
This comes at a time when the Ministry of Foreign Affaira (MoFA) has repatriated 89,000 Ethiopian returnees, according to Dina Mufti, the Ministry’s spokesperson.
The Ethiopian government has allocated 50 million Br for the evacuation and rehabilitation of Ethiopians returning from Saudi Arabia.
Officials of the oil rich country recently began forcing foreign nationals, who they described as “illegal immigrants”, to leave their country, following the passing of the deadline for amnesty. The officials were determined to reduce the 12pc unemployment rate among their own citizens.
The Ethiopian government opted for banning travel to the Middle East because of reports that its citizens were being harmed in these countries, as incidents in Saudi Arabia have recently confirmed, according to officials at the Ministry.
“Citizens who have migrated have suffered a lot while they travel, and also after they reach their destinations and start working,” said Dina. “Illegal brokers promise heaven to the travelers and make them ill-informed about the reality.”
Zebiba and Worknesh, as well as several others, do not seem to be bothered by any of the incidents being cited by the government.
“I do not want to stagnate here in a meaningless life,” Zebiba said. “It’s about changing my life and doing whatever is needed for that.”
The Ministry said a week ago that the travel ban will be enforced until everything is in order.
“It could even be more than nine months or a year,” Tedros Adhanom, minister of Foreign Affairs, said on November 22, 2013, while briefing journalists in the MoFA’s main office.
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