Migrant killings: Ethiopia, Saudi launch joint probe into allegations

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What happened to Ethiopian migrants at the Yemeni-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023?

The Foreign ministry tweeted Tuesday, that the government will jointly investigate with Saudi authorities a report by a human rights group of killings of hundreds of its nationals.

The ministry called for restraint and advised against making “unnecessary speculation until an investigation is completed,” saying the two countries “enjoy excellent longstanding relations.”

A Saudi government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, called the Human Rights Watch report “unfounded and not based on reliable sources,” but did not offer evidence to support the assertion.

US-based group Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday citing eyewitness accounts of attacks by border guards in Saudi Arabia using machine guns and mortars on unarmed Ethiopians trying to cross into the kingdom from Yemen.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the report “very concerning” but noted the “serious” allegations were difficult to verify.

The United Nations has already questioned Saudi Arabia about its troops opening fire on migrants in an escalating pattern of attacks along its southern border with war-torn Yemen.

Last year, UN 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.

The HRW report points to a surge in abuses along the perilous migrant route from the Horn of Africa to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians live and work.

Washington, a long-time ally of Riyadh, urged “a thorough and transparent investigation” into the accusations.

The European Union noted with “concern” the HRW claims and plans to raise them with Riyadh and with the Huthi rebels who control strategic parts of Yemen, a spokesman, Peter Stano, said Tuesday.

“We welcome the announcement by the government of Ethiopia, specifically, to investigate the whole issue together with the authorities in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Africanews/Hauwa M.