Ethiopia is working to free some 200 of its nationals who have been detained for two years in Libya, an Ethiopian government official said on Tuesday.
Ethiopian media have printed a petition by the detainees who say they were arrested in Libya en route to other nations where they were seeking work, and are being held in bad conditions. The prisoners said their passports and money were confiscated.
"We committed no crime. We were in Libya to transit to other countries where we could find work," the petition said.
Mebrat Beyene, head of diaspora affairs at Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry, told Reuters that the government was working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the authorities in Tripoli to secure their release.
A diplomat at the Libyan embassy in Addis Ababa denied that the Ethiopians had been put in jail.
"Those without proper documents who entered Libya illegally were rounded up and put in camps until their departure home can be arranged," said the diplomat, who declined to be named.