A new report has brought to light disturbing allegations of violence against migrants attempting to cross from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled “They Fired On Us Like Rain” details the accounts of migrants, many from Ethiopia, who claim to have been shot at and targeted with explosive weapons by Saudi police and soldiers at the Yemen-Saudi border. These allegations, which include claims of hundreds of people being shot dead, shed light on a grim reality faced by those attempting the perilous journey in search of work in Saudi Arabia.
The migrants, including women and children, recounted terrifying nighttime crossings marked by gunfire as they sought to cross the border. The report cites instances of individuals having limbs severed by gunfire and witnessing bodies left on the trails. The HRW report states that between April 24 and June 26, it documented 78 victims of rape and interviewed numerous survivors of these attacks. The allegations indicate a disturbing pattern of mass killings and other forms of violence committed by Saudi authorities against migrants, which raises concerns about human rights violations and potential crimes against humanity.
These revelations come amidst ongoing conflicts in Yemen and raise questions about the safety and well-being of migrants attempting to cross the war-torn country to reach Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni border has become a perilous route, where migrants often encounter danger, violence, and exploitation by smugglers along the way. Many migrants reported experiencing imprisonment and beatings during their journey.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 200,000 people attempt the journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and then onward to Saudi Arabia each year. This journey is fraught with danger and hardships, as individuals face the challenges of crossing treacherous seas and navigating through conflict zones. Additionally, many migrants are vulnerable to human rights abuses, including rape, forced labor, and exploitation.
The HRW report sheds light on the scale and nature of abuses migrants face along this route. Witnesses have described sites resembling “killing fields” with bodies strewn across the landscape. The HRW report, which covers incidents from March 2022 to June 2023, outlines instances of both shootings and the use of explosive weapons by Saudi security forces. The remote location of these border crossings, combined with the difficulty of tracking survivors, makes it challenging to determine the exact number of casualties.
Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about these allegations, urging investigations into the matter. The UN previously highlighted what appeared to be a systematic pattern of cross-border killings by Saudi security forces. Saudi Arabia has rejected allegations of systematic killings, stating that it takes the accusations seriously but has not found evidence to substantiate them. Despite these denials, reports from multiple sources indicate a grim reality faced by migrants along the Yemen-Saudi border.
The revelations in the HRW report highlight the urgent need for a thorough and independent investigation into these allegations. The safety and well-being of migrants, who often endure perilous journeys in search of better opportunities, must be prioritized. It is crucial for governments, international organizations, and human rights advocates to work together to address these violations, hold those responsible accountable, and ensure the protection of migrants’ rights and dignity.