Authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have cancelled a plan to expel thousands of undocumented Ethiopian immigrants, after the Horn of Africa nation intervened diplomatically.
Under a newly introduced labour law, Saudi Arabia in April gave undocumented foreign workers a three-month period to legalise their status in the gulf state or face deportation.
The aim of the new restrictions was to cut jobs occupied by foreign workers and create jobs for millions of unemployed Saudi citizens, which make up over 10% of the population.
Concerned by the threat of mass deportations, Ethiopia send its foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, to the Kingdom where he met his Saudi counterpart, Saud Al-Faisal, and held talks on Tuesday over the issue and other bilateral matters.
Following the discussions, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia had agreed to postpone the deadline set for registration of Ethiopians which was to expire in less than 10 days.
This means that over 40,000 Ethiopian immigrants are given an extra four months to legalise their status in Saudi Arabia.
In the three months after the new law was imposed, the oil-rich nation expelled at least 200,000 foreign immigrants.
Saudi Arabia hosts some 8 million foreign workers but has tightened labour laws in order to wean itself off its dependence on foreign workers.
The new law doesn’t affect business immigrants who are working with a legal sponsor.
The two foreign ministers have also agreed to strengthen cooperation particularly in the areas of developmental aid and investment.
The Ethiopian minister invited his Saudi counterpart to visit Ethiopia in the near future.