The day before June 28, 2020 at about 4:00 PM I had a sad conversation with two young men from Ethiopia. The young men whom I wouldn’t reveal their names for safety reasons live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

How they ended up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is very disheartening to say the least. Every year thousands of people from the Horn of Africa cross the Red Sea to go to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to seek employment help themselves and their families. Many of them follow the proper channels registering with governmental agencies which provide them with temporary legal work permits in the destination Arab countries. On the other hand considerable number of people from the Horn of Africa including many Ethiopians take the illegal route. Most of those people are poor desperate to make ends meet and support their families. They will do whatever it takes to cross the Red Sea including paying huge amount of money for human traffickers to help them arrive in Yemen.

Yemen is the gateway for illegal migrants because there is no a functioning government in the country and the porous borders are ideal for human traffickers. The civil war in Yemen even makes it very attractive for illegal groups to dump emigrants at the shores of the country without too much difficulty. After arriving at the sea coast of Yemen the emigrants are on their own to find their way to different Arab countries.


The two young men I talk to yesterday are part of one group that arrived in Yemen not long before Covid-19. After trekking for days in the hot inhospitable Yemeni mountains the young men found themselves joining other Ethiopians in Yemen. While the emigrants were contemplating their next move the news about Covid-19 start to spread in the world. When the Houthi armed militias who are operating in north Yemen stormed the refugee camps shooting their guns forcing the emigrants out of Yemen or face death. Facing certain death the migrants moved out of the shantytowns of Yemen and arrived at the border of Yemen and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Houthi armed militias who are said to be supported by Iran were forcing all the Ethiopian migrants from all the parts of the county under their control.

The number of displaced migrants at the border of Saudi Arabia were swelling by the thousands everyday. Finally the Saudi government opened the border to let the Ethiopian migrants in to the country. By this time the threat of Covid-19 was stressing the world governments and they were limiting movements of people in and out of their countries. The Ethiopian migrants majority of them from Tigrai the most northern state of Ethiopia were desperately trying to return back home. Initially the Saudi government was willing to work with the Ethiopian government to evacuate the Ethiopian citizens out of its Kingdom, but the Ethiopian federal government wasn’t willing to work with the Saudis. As a result about 42,000 migrants are stranded in a Saudi Arabian desert. The two young men who I talked to yesterday are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for opening their doors and saving their lives, but they said their living condition is dreadful and dangerous.

The camps where the migrants are held is extremely crowded hundreds of people are sleeping in small rooms. The people are suffering from diseases, malnutrition, and if Covid-19 breaks out in the camp thousands of people are going to die.

According to the young men, the Saudi government had offered to transport the Ethiopians out of Saudi covering the cost or it would pay the cost for Ethiopian airlines to to transport them back to Ethiopia, but the Ethiopian federal government refused to cooperate.

The world community in general and the American people in particular went out to demonstrate risking their lives to stand up for justice for George Floyd, but over forty thousand innocent young men, women and children are about to loose their lives because the world doesn’t know about the human tragedy unfolding in the Arabian Peninsula.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Araweelo News Network.

By Suhulmichael A.

This article was originally published by Tigrai Online June 29, 2020