Saudi forces kill hundreds of Ethiopians on border, says report

Rights group claims Saudi forces use small arms and explosives in “deliberate escalation”

Saudi border forces have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants attempting to cross into the kingdom from Yemen, according to a human rights group.

advertisementsHuman Rights Watch released a 73-page report yesterday that said Saudi forces have used explosives against groups of migrants, including women and children, in what could amount to a crime against humanity. In some instances, border guards asked migrants which of their limbs they should shoot, the report said, then fired at close range.

The New York-based group used satellite imaging, hundreds of photographs and videos dating back as far as 2021, witness testimony and input from forensic experts to compile the report, which puts fresh scrutiny on Riyadh’s human rights record as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the kingdom’s de facto ruler, returns to the international stage five years after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Downing Street confirmed last week that Rishi Sunak plans to welcome MBS to the UK “at the earliest opportunity” and a visit is reportedly planned later this year.

“Saudi officials are killing hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in this remote border area out of view of the rest of the world,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 750,000 Ethiopians, according to HRW. Some migrate for economic reasons, while others have fled human rights abuses in Ethiopia, particularly following an armed conflict in the north of the country.

Ethiopians have used the “Eastern Route” for decades, says the report, travelling from the Horn of Africa across the Gulf of Aden, then through Yemen and into Saudi Arabia.

But the killings documented in the report, dating from March 2022 and June 2023, appear to be a “deliberate escalation” in terms of numbers and methods used.

“I saw people killed in a way I have never imagined,” said Hamdiya, a 14 year-old girl quoted in the report who crossed the border in a group of 60 in February. “I saw 30 killed people on the spot.”

Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photograph Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images

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