According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, Saudi border guards killed “hundreds” of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023, allegations that Saudi Arabia denies.
In a shocking report released on this Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that Saudi Arabia committed crimes between March 2022 and June 2023, when Saudi border guards killed “hundreds” of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Yemen-Saudi border.
“Saudi border guards have used explosive weapons indiscriminately and shot people at close range, including women and children, in a pattern that is widespread and systematic. If committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants, these killings would be a crime against humanity,” HRW said in their report, adding that the violence appeared to still be ongoing, with more Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers in danger of losing their lives. It is estimated that approximately 750,000 Ethiopians live and work in Saudi Arabia.
The report also indicated that “while many migrate for economic reasons, a number have fled because of serious human rights abuses by their government, including during the recent, brutal armed conflict in northern Ethiopia”.
The international non-governmental organization headquartered in New York City further noted in the report that to reach the conclusion that Saudi Arabia was responsible of the death of hundreds of Ethiopians, it interviewed 42 Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers, analyzed over 350 videos and photographs posted to social media, and even used as satellite imagery.
The HRW organization also showed evidence of dead and wounded along the migrant trail, in camps and medical facilities, as well as burial sites and expanding Saudi border security infrastructure.
The videos and images that the HRW sourced and verified to conclude its report were shared on social media outlets such as TikTok and Facebook, depicting dead bodies along the migrant trail near the Yemen-Saudi border, as well as migrants with wounds consistent with injuries from explosive blasts or gunshots. They were recorded near an informal migrant camp appear to show Saudi border guard posts, and newly constructed fences in the surrounding area.
Saudi Arabia denied the accuracy of the HRW’s report
Despite it seems that the HRW’s report is quite well-documented and true, Saudi Arabia denies any wrongdoing at the Yemen-Saudi border.
In this regard, a Saudi government source said this Wednesday during an interview with the CNN that “the allegations included in the Human Rights Watch report about Saudi border guards shooting Ethiopians while they were crossing the Saudi-Yemeni border are unfounded and not based on reliable sources.” The Saudi official, who requested anonymity citing longstanding norms around the government’s communications with the media, did not elaborate further.
Saudi authorities have also strongly denied allegations made by UN officials in 2022 that border guards systematically killed migrants last year. For decades, Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers have attempted to travel across the “Eastern Route” – a dangerous journey from the Horn of Africa, across the Gulf of Aden, into Yemen and eventually Saudi Arabia, HRW said.
Yemen itself has been dealing with a civil war since 2014, but the already big problem turned into a disaster for Yemenis when a Saudi-led coalition intervention in the conflict back in 2015 turned it into a wider war. The coalition, supported by the United States, has already faced withering rebuke – including from Human Rights Watch – for bombing civilians in Yemen.