Dear Prince Naif Ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Saud November 11, 2013
Ministry of Interior
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Minister of Agriculture
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
My name is Mardaasa Addisu, an Oromo American, who is part of an international group advocating for Oromo rights. Oromo people are an ethnic group that makes up 50% of the population in Ethiopia but are being persecuted by the Tigrayan dictatorship. The Abyssinians (Tigray and Amhara) have committed Genocide on all Cushitic people to acquire resources and reduce the indigenous populations. As a result, Oromo (and all other Cushitic people) are displaced in mass numbers around the World.
More than 40% of Oromo are Muslim, with some seeking refugee in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. Many flee persecution in Ethiopia in hopes of finding refuge whereby they can practice their faith without Government interference. We are aware that a large number of people are also using the Ethiopian domestic labor agencies to reach Saudi Arabia.
Recently, Oromo advocates learned of your government ending the Kafala System of sponsorship for labor, which is believed to bypass Saudi Labor laws.
Human Rights Watch has been critical of the Kafala System in recent times stating:
“Saudi Arabia should get serious about regularizing the status of its workers and do away with an abusive labour systems that force migrants into illegal employment”
Although the changes are reform based, Saudi police are using brutal measures on foreign workers are severe human rights abuses, and are contrary to international norms. The deaths and attacks of laborers and refugees are direct human rights violations. It is also understood that many that are attacked are ether from East Africa or Asia.
Those from East Africa, particularly who have fled Ethiopia are primarily Oromo and or Ogadeni Somalia. Oromo and Ogadeni flee due to the overwhelming oppression in Ethiopia.
Oromo advocates are concerned with the planned deportation of Oromo and Ogaden refugees and laborers who fled from their countries in fear of persecution. While other countries can peacefully return their people to their native land, Oromo and Ogadeni run the risk of being thrown in jail in Ethiopia. Human Rights Watch documented Ethiopia’s prison abuses, particularly Oromo people in the following report:
“They want a confession” Torture and Ill-Treatment in Ethiopia’s Maekelawi Police Station
Refouling, particularly refugees are contrary to International standards and moral obligation to humanity. Although Saudi Arabia is not a signature to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, moral obligation to protection of humanity should encourage the Saudi Government to respect human rights of Africans working in your country.
- 1951 UN Refugee Convention Definition Art. 33 (1) states that:
“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race religion nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
The expectation that Saudi Arabia would protect human rights of Africans is reinforced by the government entering into State Party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on June 26 1987,
- Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185), Saudi Arabia has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:
No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
It is worth noting that some multinational companies, including Saudi corporations have negotiated below market price leases with the Government of Ethiopia for indigenous lands in the South particularly Benishangual, Oromo and Gambella regions. The policy of discounted land lease for large scale farm and Industrial land exploits farmers from the Benishangul, Oromo and Gambella regions with long term implications on migrations. In order to address the illegal entry into Saudi Arabia, one must
also address Saudi Corporations exploiting the indigenous farmland. It is well understood that Saudi Star
is leasing large scale lands (10,000 ha) in the Gambella region for Rice production as documented by the
Oakland institute (OI, 2011).
Critics report that most of the food is exported to the holding corporation’s country. According to Arab News, Saad Khalil, the director of King Abdullah’s initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investments Abroad is targeting 35 countries for agro investments for supply of Saudi Arabia’s food needs, including Ethiopia (Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture, May 2010). Although the Initiative suggests that “some food must be left” for the supplying country the issue for Stateless people such as Oromo are the exploitative nature of the Government of Ethiopia. Therefore, negotiations do not include impact to the indigenous population.
We urge the Government of Saudi Arabia to:
- Protect human rights of refugees and laborers
- Provide medical aide to the wounded from violence by Saudi Arabian police
- Review vulnerable cases through refugee determination process, including Oromo before deporting. In the past, Oromo refugees in Saudi have been told that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is no longer considering Oromo cases for refugee protection.
- Review agreements with the Government of Ethiopia on land leasing to avoid exploitation of indigenous farmers in Gambela, Oromo and Benishangul regions, and establish policy that protects by seeking fair agreements with local people.
Sincerely, Mardaasa Addisu
Secretary of Macha Tulama
Cooperative and Development Association, USA
IPU(2001). “Refugee Protecion: A guide to International Refugee Law” Web. 2001.
OI (2011). “Understanding Land Investment deals in Africa Saudi Star in Ethiopia.” Web, June 2011.
Saudi Arabia Deputy Minister of Agriculture(2010).”King Abdullah’s Initiative for Saudi Agriculture Investment Abroad: A Way of Enhancing Saudi Food Security.” Web. May 2010. http://www.isdb.org/irj/go/km/docs/documents/IDBDevelopments/Internet/English/IDB/CM/Publicatio ns/IDB_AnnualSymposium/20thSymposium/8-AbdullaAlobaid.pdf