About sixty Nigerian women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are seeking assistance to return home.
The women currently live in four overcrowded homes in the city, SaharaReporters gathered.
Alade Abdulaziz, a leader of the Nigerian community in the country, told SaharaReporters that the Nigerian consulate in Jeddah botched a flight arrangement to bring the women home.
He said he had almost concluded a deal for a flight to evacuate the women on August 25 but stopped when the Nigerian consulate office in Jeddah offered a purportedly better arrangement.
“This all started when the consulate said it was okay for me to organise some of the girls for evacuation,” Abdulaziz said. “It is a process I hoped would take a week, but it has stretched on for three weeks now, and not one flight has left. Thankfully, they called me from the consulate today (Thursday). They said they had better travel plans than ours. My concern is when their aircraft will take off.”
Abdulaziz said 45 women in three houses, including those in his home, could face starvation if they are not immediately repatriated.
“I have 18 of them in my home, where I am staying with my wife, my son and my daughter. The ladies are living on the little money they came with from their employers. Some of them have been here for five months, even me and my family may go hungry if these girls don’t leave soon… within the week.”
He said the women were rescued from their abusive employers whom they worked for as domestic workers.
According to him, aside from the chance to be evacuated by the Nigerian government, the other option for the women is to report to deportation camps where they would stay much longer before being deported by the Saudi Arabian government.
“Since this month started, I have made at least 400 calls, trying to get out ladies trapped in their employer’s house,” Abdulaziz said. “Not all of them received ticket money from their bosses. Some could not endure the two years and had to run away.”
If the Nigerian government fails to repatriate the women, Abdulaziz said they could either return to the houses of the employers they ran away from and obtain a clearance document stating that they committed no crime or pay money to get cleared at any of the country’s immigration offices.
“I have the names of more than 200 ‘runaways. We are appealing to the Nigerian government to beg the Saudi government to wave the clearance fee so that they can be cleared at immigration for free,” he said.
In a video sent to SaharaReporters, some of the women begged the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi and the chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Arewa, to help facilitate their repatriation to Nigeria.
“Abike Dabiri we beg you. Ooni of Ife, we call on you. We do not want to return to Nigeria through deportation,” they pleaded in Yoruba. “We hear Nigerian airports would be open to international flights on August 29 – now September 5. Our luggage is here with us. Please help us return.”
One of the women said healthcare at the deportation camps was grossly inadequate, pleading that she did not want to end up in those camps.
“I’ve heard people die there, especially when they are sick,” she said. “One of my friends was deported this month. I do not want to go there. I will be forced to if the evacuation flight does not come through.”
Some of the women told SaharaReporters that they had not received any forms of assistance from Nigerian consulate in Jeddah.