A new report found that Saudi security forces deployed along the country’s border with Yemen are committing horrific human rights abuses against Ethiopian migrants, including hundreds of murders and the rape of a 13-year-old girl.
The Mixed Migration Center (MMC), a group funded by the UN, US, UK and European Union, released its findings on Wednesday following an in-depth investigation. “Large numbers of Ethiopian migrants are systematically being killed on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia on a daily basis, directly and deliberately by security officials operating under Saudi Arabian state authority,” the group said. “The targeted nature and scale of these killings and the fact that the perpetrators are operating under state authority make this border crossing an exceptionally lethal one.”
In 2022, nearly 800 migrants were killed and over 1,700 were injured by Saudi mortar and small arms fire, according to MMC. The group notes the numbers it reports are estimates and the true toll could be far higher.
Although the group is still compiling data for 2023, it said the atrocities have continued. At least 75 people are said to have been killed by the Saudis this year, while a UN report from October 2022 documented similar killings.
According to the MMC, the Saudi crimes are not limited to killing migrants. “The communication includes information on a clandestine cemetery in North Yemen, close to the Saudi border, containing up to 10,000 bodies of migrants. If migrants are captured they are reportedly oftentimes subjected to torture by being lined up and shot through the side of the leg to see how far the bullet will go or asked if they prefer to be shot in the hand or the leg,” it continued. “Additionally, girls as young as 13 years old have reportedly been raped by Saudi security forces and pushed back across the border into Yemen without their clothes.”
The Saudi forces are acting at the direction of Riyadh. “At the Saudi-Yemen border migrants are deliberately targeted and killed by security officials operating under state authority,” the report said. “These forces are believed to be pursuing a policy of excessive use of firearm force to stop and deter migrants from crossing the Saudi-Yemeni border.“
For the past eight years, Saudi Arabia has been waging a war against Yemen. At points, migrants along the border were killed in crossfire between the Yemeni and Saudi forces. However, for more than a year, fighting in Yemen has almost stopped. Still, migrants along the border are dying as they are being deliberately targeted by the Saudi forces.
Riyadh has been accused of a long list of war crimes during its military campaign in Yemen. The Saudi air force destroyed a well-marked cholera treatment center and used a US-made bomb to kill dozens of children traveling in a school bus. Riyadh has used a blockade to prevent food and fuel from entering Yemen, leading to starvation and widespread malnutrition among Yemeni children.