Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Saudi border guards of carrying out mass killings of migrants along the Yemeni border. The report titled “They Fired On Us Like Rain” contains graphic details of hundreds of migrants, including Ethiopians, being shot dead while attempting to reach Saudi Arabia.

The HRW report documents accounts from survivors, detailing the gruesome and deadly encounters migrants faced while crossing the Yemeni-Saudi border. Migrants have shared stories of limbs being severed by gunfire and bodies being left on trails as a result of the attacks carried out by Saudi forces.

Among those targeted were large groups of Ethiopians, including women and children, seeking entry into Saudi Arabia for work and a chance at a better life. According to Mustafa Soufia Mohammed, a 21-year-old survivor, the shooting continued for an extended period, leaving many in his group dead or severely injured. In July last year, his group of 45 migrants came under attack while crossing the border.

The United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reveals that over 200,000 people travel from the Horn of Africa to Yemen by sea and then to Saudi Arabia. Human rights groups report that many migrants endure imprisonment and physical abuse while navigating their way.

Sea-crossing is fraught with peril as well. Recent reports indicate that over 24 migrants went missing due to a shipwreck off the coast of Djibouti just last week.

The HRW report, which covers events from March 2022 to June this year, details 28 incidents involving the use of explosive weapons and 14 instances of close-range shooting targeting migrants attempting to cross into Saudi Arabia.

United Nations experts previously brought attention to reports of extensive killings in the region, as evidenced by a letter addressed to the Riyadh government in October. The letter highlighted patterns of indiscriminate cross-border killings carried out by Saudi forces, utilising artillery shelling and small arms against vulnerable migrants.

The Saudi government vehemently denied the UN’s description of the killings as systematic or large-scale. The government’s official stance is that no evidence within the Kingdom validates the allegations, citing the limited information provided.

A report released by Mixed Migration Centre, a renowned worldwide research network, also contains first-hand interviews with survivors. The stories include descriptions of decomposing bodies strewn across the border region, instances of captured migrants being forced to choose which leg to be shot through by Saudi border guards, and the brutal use of machine guns and mortars against vulnerable groups.

While various reports have emerged, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report stands out as the most comprehensive. It provides numerous eyewitness testimonies, satellite imagery showcasing the border crossing sites where many of the alleged killings took place, and evidence of makeshift burial areas.

Within the HRW report, attention is drawn to a detention centre named Monabbih, located in Yemen. Migrants are reportedly held there before being led to the border by armed smugglers. According to HRW’s interviews with migrants, it has been revealed that Yemen’s Houthi rebels oversee security at Monabbih and are alleged to collaborate with the smugglers in facilitating the movement of migrants.