Running the Gauntlet

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Saudi Arabian border guards have killed hundreds of African migrants attempting to cross the Yemeni-Saudi border, shooting at men, women and children at close range and also targeting explosives at them, according to a new report about conditions along one of the world’s most dangerous smuggling routes, the New York Times reported Monday.

The new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) focused on the plight of Ethiopian migrants attempting to flee their conflict-ridden country to wealthy Saudi Arabia while traversing war-ravaged Yemen. The report examined a 15-month period and is based on dozens of interviews with migrants who attempted to cross the border, as well as the analysis of hundreds of photos and videos shot by migrants.

The report alleges that guards have opened fire with rifles and explosive munitions – believed to be mortars or rockets – on migrants attempting to cross the border. HRW estimates that hundreds of people were killed between March 2022 and June 2023, but the death toll could be higher.

The findings also show that Saudi security forces would often beat detained migrants, including shooting them in the limbs, leading to permanent injuries and amputations. In one instance, guards forced male migrants to rape a woman while they watched.

HRW wrote that if the killing of migrants was part of the Saudi kingdom’s policy, it would constitute a crime against humanity.

The Saudi government denied the accusations, saying they were “unfounded and not based on reliable sources.

The report also accuses Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis that control the border regions of the widespread abuse of migrants, such as facilitating smuggling, extortion and detention.

The civil conflict in Yemen has led to widespread human rights abuses and a lack of accountability for war crimes.

HRW also said that the violence at the border is not new and there have been limited international efforts to address it, leaving migrants in a vulnerable and dangerous situation.

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