The allegations, described as “unfounded” by a Saudi government source, point to a significant escalation of abuses along the perilous route from the Horn of Africa to Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians live and work.
One 20-year-old woman from Ethiopia’s Oromia region, interviewed by HRW, said Saudi border guards opened fire on a group of migrants they had just released from custody.
“They fired on us like rain. When I remember, I cry,” she said.
“I saw a guy calling for help, he lost both his legs. He was screaming; he was saying, ‘Are you leaving me here? Please don’t leave me’. We couldn’t help him because we were running for our lives.”
HRW researcher Nadia Hardman said “Saudi officials are killing hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in this remote border area out of view of the rest of the world,” according to a statement.
“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,” she said.
The United States on Monday voiced alarm over the report and urged a full investigation.
“We have raised our concerns about these allegations with the Saudi government,” a State Department spokesperson said.”We urge the Saudi authorities to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation and also to meet their obligations under international law.”
A Saudi government source told AFP that the allegations were unreliable.
“The allegations included in the Human Rights Watch report about Saudi border guards shooting Ethiopians while they were crossing the Saudi-Yemeni border are unfounded and not based on reliable sources,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
The New York-based group has documented abuses against Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia and Yemen for nearly a decade, but the latest killings appear to be “widespread and systematic” and may amount to crimes against humanity, it said.
Last year, United Nations experts reported “concerning allegations” that “cross-border artillery shelling and small-arms fire by Saudi Arabia security forces killed approximately 430 migrants” in southern Saudi Arabia and northern Yemen during the first four months of 2022.read more