The United Nations said yesterday that deportations of illegal migrant workers by Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia risked spreading the coronavirus, Reuters reported.
Saudi Arabia has so far deported 2,870 Ethiopian migrants to Addis Ababa since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN migration agency said. Ethiopian authorities confirmed that large-scale deportations were taking place.
An internal UN memo seen by Reuters said Saudi Arabia was expected to deport some 200,000 Ethiopian migrants in total. Other Gulf Arab states, Kenya and other neighbouring countries are also expected to repatriate Ethiopian migrants, it said.
"Large-scale migratory movements which are not planned make the transmission of the virus much more likely to continue. We are therefore calling for the temporary suspension of large-scale deportations," Catherine Sozi, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ethiopia, told Reuters.
The Saudi media ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia, which has a population of around 30 million people, has so far reported 4,934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, with 65 deaths.
Ethiopia, with a population of 105 million, only has 74 coronavirus cases and just two deaths and it urged Riyadh to suspend the practice for the time being.