Illegal immigrant workers wait in line at the Saudi immigration offices at the Alisha area, west of Riyadh May 26, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
The Ethiopian government is repatriating its citizens living in Saudi Arabia illegally, after reports that an Ethiopian was killed by Saudi police, officials said Saturday.
Last April, the Saudi government issued an amnesty period giving illegal immigrants seven months to gain legal status or leave the country.
"The ones who failed are the ones who are being repatriated," the spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, Dina Mufti, told AFP.
Every year, large numbers of Ethiopians leave their country looking for work. Most are females moving to the Middle East seeking domestic work.
Last year, 200,000 women left Ethiopia seeking jobs, according to Ethiopia's Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Dina said there were unconfirmed reports that an Ethiopian had been killed this week by Saudi police who were shifting illegal immigrants into camps.
"They were trying to get them in the camp before repatriation and in that process... an Ethiopian has been killed with a police bullet, but we are verifying it," Dina said.
He could not say how many illegal immigrants are in Saudi Arabia, and did not say when they would be brought home, only that it would be "as soon as possible".
The International Labour Organization (ILO) said many Ethiopian domestic workers living abroad are subjected to emotional and physical abuse, poor working conditions, low pay and discrimination.
Last month, the Ethiopian government said it was banning domestic workers from moving abroad after reports of widespread abuse.
With a population of 91 million people, Ethiopia is Africa's second most populous country after Nigeria, but also one of the continent's poorest with the majority of people earning less than two dollars a day.
The nation's unemployment rate is 20 percent, according to the ILO, with more than 27 percent of females and 13 percent of males jobless.