Ethiopian community in Yemen:Problems need to be resolved [Archives:2003/670/Community]

September 22 2003

Abdo Moqbil Al-Sabiri
The Ethiopian Community is considered to be an institution whose members have dedicated themselves to reviewing all Ethiopian-related issues.
Among those issues is shouldering several responsibilities and burdens such as issuing IDs, passports, providing and facilitating all procedures to solve the Ethiopian problems as well as providing shelter, food and improving their health care.
Emran Mohammed Sharief, the Chairman of the Ethiopian Community has been living in Yemen for about 21 years. He has been entrusted with every Tom, Dick and Harry residing or working here in Yemen.
He is married and has got 4 children. The eldest daughter is 23 years old while the youngest son is 16.
The community was established in August in 1983 and at that time the number of the Ethiopians was too few.
According to the Ethiopian Embassy's statistics, the number of Ethiopian residents has been ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 people.
While, the community members have reached only 1,500 persons.
The community is supported by its members and they contribute YR 500 a month.
About $ 1200 is paid as rent and that money comes from the community members themselves.
So many shops are found at the community. Those shops are allotted for selling Ethiopian goods, because, when coming here, the Ethiopians are inclined to their traditional goods.

Conditions of Ethiopian Community
The Ethiopian community has been responsible for solving so many problems such as, giving treatment to Ethiopians and following up their cases. “If for instance one of the Ethiopians is imprisoned, we then follow his/her case and if someone dies here in Yemen, he is taken to his homeland, (Ethiopia) to be buried,” Mr. Sharief remarked.
On the other hand, if no relatives or family is found, the dead person is buried here in Yemen.
“We face so many problems related to the Ethiopian community residing or working here in Yemen, particularly female servants who come to Yemen in order to make a living. When coming home we are taken aback for not having pre-work contracts.
Those maidservants are conned out of their life by the agents, Mohammed Ali al-Ashtal and Hassan Al-Usta,” Mr. Sharief said.
Mr. Sharief attributed most of those problems to Mohammed Ali Al-Ashtal who has so many agents in Ethiopia and even without the knowledge of the Ethiopian government.
“No contracts are made; they don't know even how many years they should work. They are totally unaware about the situation here in Yemen,” Mr. Sharief added further.
Consequently, agents worm their way into the Ethiopian maidservants' confidence. “People have been still thinking that the Yemeni Rial has been still equal to that of the Saudi Rial. Agents there pull the wool over the Ethiopians' eyes that if an Ethiopian maidservant receives YR. 8000 it means that one birr, (an Ethiopian currency) equals YR20. But, when coming here to Yemen, we got astonished of not having work contracts with them,” he commented.
According to what Mr. Sharief said, those maidservants are taken by the Mohammed Ali al-Ashtal directly from the airport to their workplaces.
When having the desire to come here, Ethiopians have to pay amounts of money totaling birr 2000 which equals YR., 40000.
More sorrow than in anger, Ethiopian girls when working here are exposed to several psychological disturbances. They are also annoyed intensely. But, who should be held accountable for all those problems.
“Agents bring them here and provides jobs for them. We at the Ethiopian community at length have to bear their entire burdens. Because of being next of kin, we have to treat them here at the Ethiopian community; we shoulder all burdens and return them to their home.

Community Chairman with security men
So many tangled problems are shouldered by the community specifically, its chairman, Mr. Emran.
He has been taken to police stations several times. As he is the only person who chairs the community, he has become the first to be held accountable for what is going on with the Ethiopians here working or residing in Yemen.
So many examples are given by the Ethiopian community chairman. “If for instance a wage-earner girl escapes from an official house, I am the only person who should pay the cost, “One month ago, I remained at the Criminal Investigation for one week. This is because two maid servants fled an official's house. I was taken to the Criminal Investigation office by security men from my office. I was taken immediately and imprisoned for a whole week. “Up to this moment, this case hasn't been yet resolved and we also haven't seen these two girls or even come to the community premises,” he explained.
All these problems are because of the agents who bring them from Ethiopia.
In order to duck these cases, they throw stones at the community and escape.

Community appeals
The majority of the Ethiopians here in Yemen doesn't have residence permits.
If a distinction is made between the Yemeni community in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian community here in Yemen, a big difference lies there.
Majority of Yemenis don't have any problems concerning their residencies. “We are here in Yemen facing so many problems, including 365 passports at the immigration authority, haven't yet been resolved. No response has been shown yet,” he said.
Spacious piece of land is allotted for the Yemeni community in Ethiopia. This has paved the way for Yemenis there to build schools and be able to educate their children in Arabic.
“We want our sons learn their mother tongue,'' he concluded too.