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Ethiopia to export half a million maids annually to Saudi Arabia

(Durame)- Ethiopia commenced sending 45,000 Ethiopian housemaids per month to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), an Ethiopian official said by phone today.

The controversial recruitment strategy will send 500,000 Ethiopian women annually to a country long known for abusing housemaids and foreign nationals in the strict Sharia-governed Kingdom.

Amid tougher restrictions for housemaids working in KSA by the Philippines, Indian, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Kenyan governments, Ethiopian housemaids have been in high demand by families in Saudi Arabia.

With little to no support from the Government of Ethiopia, many Ethiopian women are often exploited by Saudi families, working grueling 16-hour days and having their passports and earnings withheld to prevent them from running away.

Poverty and high unemployment in Ethiopia continues to be the leading factor that drives young women towards the Middle East.

“There are no opportunities in Ethiopia for employment. I either become a prostitute in Addis or a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. I have chosen the latter to support my family,” said 23-year-old Asamenech Alemu by phone.

Earning up to SR4,000 (USD $1,060) a month for legal housemaids, nearly a year’s salary in Ethiopia, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian women will continue to flock to the Kingdom in search of employments, despite the risks of abuse.

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