Startling revelations have emerged from a recent report by Human Rights Watch, shedding light on a harrowing series of events at the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The report, released on Monday, unveils a grim picture of border guards in Saudi Arabia allegedly resorting to extreme measures, including firing machine guns and launching mortars, against Ethiopians attempting to cross into the kingdom from Yemen. These incidents have taken place over the course of several years and may have resulted in the deaths of hundreds, or potentially even thousands, of unarmed migrants.
Eyewitness accounts collected by the rights group highlight a disturbing pattern of attacks by Saudi troops, corroborated by distressing images showcasing the aftermath of these encounters. The images depict lifeless bodies and makeshift burial sites along the migrants' routes. While the United Nations has already raised concerns about Saudi Arabia's use of lethal force against migrants, the Saudi government has denied these allegations, dismissing the report's claims as "unfounded and not based on reliable sources," as reported by AP.
The Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are reportedly profiting from smuggling migrants across the border, have remained tight-lipped about the allegations. The report also underscores the dire circumstances that have pushed Ethiopians to risk their lives by attempting to cross into Saudi Arabia. With an estimated 750,000 Ethiopians currently residing in Saudi Arabia, a substantial portion of them—around 450,000—have entered the kingdom without proper authorization, as per statistics from the International Organization for Migration.
Intriguingly, the backdrop of Ethiopia's two-year civil war in the Tigray region has added complexity to the issue, displacing tens of thousands of people and prompting Saudi Arabia to cooperate with Addis Ababa in repatriating its citizens. Against the backdrop of Saudi Arabia's internal challenges, including youth unemployment, the country's actions have taken on a nuanced significance.
Human Rights Watch conducted a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with Ethiopian migrants and their relatives, alongside the analysis of hundreds of videos, photographs, and satellite imagery. These pieces of evidence have painted a grim picture of the migrant experience, capturing not only the tragic aftermath of attacks but also the sprawling security infrastructure along the border and the routes migrants have been using.