AYS News Digest 22/08/23: Systematic murders by Saudi Arabian guards on the border with Yemen

Frontex invest 15 million in off-road vehicles // More and more unaccompanied children in Serbia // Lithuanian and Latvian border updates // Pushbacks from Bulgaria are fatal // Deportations on the rise in Germany // ‘Implicit withdrawal’ of asylum claims becomes policy in the UK & much more

Are You Syrious?
7 min readAug 22, 2023


47 people walking alongside a steep slope inside Saudi Arabia, on the trail used to cross from Al Thabit camp via HRW.

Human Rights Watch have reported that Ethiopian people have been targeted in mass killings by Saudi Arabia’s border guards. Using explosive weapons and small arms, over 20 incidents of murder have taken place.

These are clear crimes, and if they are part of Saudi government policy, constitute crimes against humanity. They are targeted attacks on vulnerable individuals. HRW’s visual report — which contains distressing imagery — is available here.

The full report from Human Rights Watch can be read here:

https://www.hrw.org/report/2023/08/21/they-fired-us-rain/saudi-arabian-mass-killings ethiopian-migrants-yemen-saudi

“Saudi officials are killing hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in this remote border area out of view of the rest of the world,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“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. Saudi border guards knew or should have known they were firing on unarmed civilians,” Hardman said. “If there is no justice for what appear to be serious crimes against Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers, it will only fuel further killings and abuses.”

Witness testimony describes a campaign of extreme violence, with women and children killed by shelling, and corpses beside the roads near Al Raqw camp.

“I saw people killed in a way I have never imagined,” Hamdiya, a 14-year-old girl who crossed the border in a group of 60 people in February, told researchers. “I saw 30 killed people on the spot.” — via Guardian.

More than 795 people, mostly from Ethiopia, are believed to have been killed.

International pressure is a EUROPEAN RESPONSIBILITY, as this article illustrates.

Germany is training Saudi border guards, and has done so since 2009. Franco-German armaments company EADS [now Airbus] won the contracts to militarise the border region at the same time. In 2022, the German government — with the participation of the Greens — approved deliveries of arms worth 44.2 million euros.


Over 2000 people are known to have died in the Mediterranean this year, seeking to arrive in Europe. Nine people drown every day. Yesterday, Open Arms rescued 66 people. Today, 195 people disembarked at the port of Carrara.

A merchant vessel has also been accused of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard with pushbacks.


15 million for off-road vehicles

Frontex have just awarded a contact worth 15 million euros to a Bulgarian company. The off-road vehicles and SUVs will reportedly be for ‘operational activities’ from the ‘Arctic to the Mediterranean’ — the length of the EU’s external borders…



More and more unaccompanied children in Serbia

Based on field visits, Klikaktiv have recorded a visible increase in the number of unaccompanied minors in Serbia.

“In a visit to an informal settlement in an abandoned factory called Sunce, near the city of Sombor, we spoke with a large number of unaccompanied children aged between 12 and 17 years old. At the settlement itself, the living situation had been difficult for a while at the time. High number of people moving in and out of the place meant considerable amounts of garbage, many cases of body lice, and insects which bite humans. Most of the people slept in the hangars of the abandoned factory on blankets they had found on the spot, with no covers for the body during the night when the temperatures get lower, and without clean clothes to change themselves into after a long while.”


Sienos Grupe — Updates from the Border

The movement of people across the Belarussian-Schengen border has changed recently. Most people are trying to cross into the Schengen area via the Belarusian-Latvian border, before moving westwards across Lithuania. There is no publicly available information about how many people have been detained by the Lithuanian authorities, having crossed via Latvia. Two Cuban nationals were recently and unconstitutionally detained; the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania ruled in June that the automatic detention of foreigners was unconstitutional.

“Elected members of the Seimas take an oath to respect the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, but after the CC ruling, the Minister immediately said she would continue to violate the Constitution. It seems that she is already doing so. We can see that the institution under her authority, the SSAT, still does not recognise the aforementioned decision of the Constitutional Court and applies the provisions of the law that are no longer in force when detaining foreigners.”

Via Sienos Grupe.


More pushbacks at the border prove fatal

From Bulgaria’s border with Turkey, Collective Rotte Balcaniche Alto Vicentino have published their second report:

They discovered the lifeless body of H., a Syrian man. Their report details the 24 hours in which they tried to save his life.

“4.46 p.m., we also call 112, to put pressure on them and make sure that there is indeed a search team on site: we decide to tell the operator that there is a person in critical condition lost in the woods and we give the precise coordinates. In response, he asks us his name and, even before information on his state of health, his nationality. It is a border area: probably, the answer to this question is crucial to understand what priority to give to the call and who to alert. When we say he is Syrian, the question automatically comes up: “How did he cross the border? Legally or illegally?“. We say we don’t know, we repeat that H. needs immediate help, he might be dead. The operator accepts our report and tells us that police and medical assistance have been alerted. We ask for an update, but they cannot call us back. We call back.”

When civil volunteers arrive at 9.30pm, they find H.’s lifeless body. There was no police or medical response from the state.

InfoMigrants have reported at length (across four articles) on the recent rise in violence along the border, here.

They investigate why violence has risen. According to the Bulgarian Helskini Committee, “Police brutality, lack of accountability and impunity are main drivers of pushbacks and violence against migrants in Bulgaria.”


Deportations on the Rise

Following rejected asylum applications, an increasing number of people from Georgia, North Macedonia, Albania, Moldova and Serbia have been deported from Germany. More people are returning voluntarily, according to InfoMigrants.

A total of 7,861 people had been forcibly removed from the country this year by June 2023, representing a 27% rise. As the EU works on changes to the asylum system, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wants to tighten rules around deportation. Earlier this month, she presented a draft that would give police greater powers to forcibly remove people from Germany.


‘Implicit withdrawal’ of asylum claims becomes policy

The UK government can now treat an asylum claim as “implicitly withdrawn” if a person “fails to maintain contact with the Home Office or provide up to date contact details” or “fails to attend any reporting events”. This would then revoke the protection against detention, removal and non-entitlement to support that an asylum claimant holds. This is outrageous. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants rightly point out:

“The Home Office is notorious for poor record-keeping, with life-altering consequences as we saw with the Windrush scandal. Ministers don’t even know how many children have come to the UK to seek safety. Not to mention, many letters inviting people to interview get lost in the post, meaning people can “fail” to attend an interview or to report because they never received the notice in the first place.”

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Are You Syrious?

News digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.