ADDIS ABABA – Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused on Thursday Yemen’s Houthi rebels and rival Saudi border guards of killing several dozen Ethiopian migrants in an incident at the border earlier this year.
The statement from the New York-based rights group quoted Ethiopian migrants who said Houthi fighters in April rounded up thousands of them from their unofficial settlement area in al-Ghar town in the country’s northwestern Saada province.
The migrants said they were forced into pickup trucks and driven to the nearby Saudi border. During the process, Houthis screamed that the migrants were “coronavirus carriers” and fired at anyone who tried to escape, the witnesses said.
Once the Ethiopian migrants arrived at the Saudi border, they got caught up in clashes between their Houthi escorts and Saudi border guards, the rights group said.
Saudi border guards then fired on the fleeing migrants, killing dozens more, while hundreds of survivors escaped to a mountainous border area.
At least twelve migrants interviewed witnessed killings of migrants or saw their bodies, but the number killed could not be determined, according to HRW’s statement.
“The lethal disregard Houthi and Saudi forces have shown civilians during Yemen’s armed conflict was replayed in April with Ethiopian migrants at the Yemen-Saudi border,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at HRW.
“United Nations agencies need to step in to address the immediate threats to the Ethiopian migrants and press for accountability for those responsible for the killings and other abuses,” Hardman added.
The Houthi armed group, which took over the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 in an armed conflict that a Saudi-led coalition joined in March 2015, have for many years controlled Yemen’s northwest border areas.
Featured Image: Ethiopian migrants walk on the side of a highway leading to the western Yemeni town of Haradh, on the border with Saudi Arabia. [Photo: File/Reuters]