Guards at Saudi Arabia’s border have likely killed hundreds of unarmed migrants seeking asylum in the kingdom in recent years, according to a Monday report from Human Rights Watch.
Saudi border guards used machine guns and mortar shells to likely kill hundreds, “possibly thousands” of Ethiopians trying to get into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch reported. Saudi Arabia currently houses roughly 750,000 Ethiopians, 450,000 of which came into the country illegally from war-torn Yemen, according to The Associated Press.
“Saudi officials are killing hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in this remote border area out of view of the rest of the world,” Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the report. “Spending billions buying up professional golf, football clubs, and major entertainment events to improve the Saudi image should not deflect attention from these horrendous crimes.”
Saudi authorities are spending billions on sports-washing to improve their image.
But out of public view, Saudi border guards have killed at least hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers, including women and children, who tried to cross the Yemen-Saudi border. pic.twitter.com/1XmJavfxWI
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) August 21, 2023
The United Nations told Saudi Arabia in a 2022 letter that it had received “concerning allegations” that the country was killing unarmed migrants at the border, and capturing and torturing those who weren’t killed, according to the AP. (RELATED: Trump’s Historic Push For Middle East Peace Stalls Out Under Biden)
“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,” the U.N. letter reads, according to the AP. “Survivors of such attacks reported having to ‘play dead’ for a period of time in order to escape.”
Saudi Arabia responded earlier this year that it “categorically refutes” allegations of “systematic” killings at its border facing Yemen, according to the AP. A Saudi Arabian government official said the Human Rights Watch report released Monday was “unfounded and not based on reliable sources,” but provided no evidence to support that claim.
The report was compiled through a review of 350 videos and photographs gathered between 2021 and 2023, as well as an examination of hundreds of miles of satellite imagery, according to Human Rights Watch. It was also gathered through the eyewitness accounts of 38 Ethiopian migrants and four relatives who saw Saudi border guards fire guns or explosives at other migrants attempting to cross the border.
One migrant described an instance in June 2023 in which Saudi border guards captured a number of migrants, brought them back to the border, released them and began firing mortar shells on them “like rain” as they ran back toward Yemen.
“We were resting together after running a lot…and that’s when they fired mortars on our group. Directly at us. There were 20 in our group and only ten survived… they fired on us like rain,” the migrant said to Human Rights Watch.
Saudi Arabia’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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