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Repatriation of Ethiopians overstretches Saudi airports

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Airports in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, have been overstretched in recent weeks thanks to the repatriation of thousands of undocumented Ethiopians from the kingdom, CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines revealed.The 90-day amnesty which the Saudi government granted for undocumented Ethiopians to leave its territory is scheduled to expire next Friday.

“We are bringing more than a thousand a day but unfortunately we are not carrying as much as we want because the airports in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh and Jeddah are highly congested” the CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines Tewolde Gebremariam told APA in an exclusive over the weekend.

“They are not giving us enough slot and we are discussing with the Saudi government because we want to take out our citizens in good time before the deadline” he added.

With the deadline fast approaching only 35,000 Ethiopians have returned.

The returnees represent less than nine percent of the over 400,000 undocumented Ethiopians living in Saudi Arabia.

“It is really a big challenge especially in Riyadh Airport and it is highly congested and unfortunately this time a lot of events are taking place in Saudi Arabia right now. It is the end of Ramadan so a lot of people are going for Hajj. It is also the Umrah period so a lot of people are going for Umrah prayers so Riyadh and Jeddah airports are overstretched” Tewolde added.

According to Ethiopian spokesperson Negere Lencho, 85,000 Ethiopians have so far secured exit visas to return to their country although many complain about what they called the inefficient exit visa provisions.

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