The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced on Sunday it is lobbying for the release of 18 nationals detained in Qatar.

In a press statement, MoFA said the Ethiopian Embassy in Qatari is holding discussions with Qatari authorities for the release of 18 nationals currently serving prison time.

The MoFA statement did not identify the crimes the Ethiopians are serving prison sentences for.

In recent years Gulf nations including Qatar have arrested and convicted Ethiopians for various crimes including illegal entry, sale of illicit alcohol and sale of narcotic substances.

It is estimated that every year thousands of Ethiopians looking for better economic opportunities abroad are trafficked through Somalia, Djibouti and the Red Sea to reach the Arabian Peninsula.

MoFA added Qatari authorities had already freed eight Ethiopian detainees as a good will gesture during the gulf country’s national day celebrations on Tuesday.