Saudi Arabia has been taking advantage of the dire economic condition in neighbouring Yemen by recruiting Yemeni civilians, including children, via local human trafficking networks to defend its southern border, a new report has revealed.
According to Geneva based human rights monitoring organisation SAM, many Yemenis are entering the kingdom under the pretext of receiving emergency treatment only to be sent to the Yemen-Saudi border to fight for Riyadh. Saudi classes such fighters as mercenaries, however SAM explains this cannot be the case as they belong to a state party in the ongoing conflict.
Over the last four years, the report explained, Saudi Arabia has been enlisting thousands of Yemeni fighters, including children, "using human trafficking networks, to fight on its behalf along its southern border with Yemen".
This, it continued, was in clear "violation of domestic laws and international conventions, which prohibit the use of civilians to fight".
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Yemenis who died as a result of the unrest at the border were often buried in the kingdom without their families being informed. Some 300 have had to have a limb amputated as a result of their war injuries, SAM continued.
All sides of the Yemen conflict have repeatedly been condemned for their use of child soldiers. In June 2018, however, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drew criticism from human rights activists for blocking the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in a list of countries that recruit child soldiers.
Impoverished Yemen has remained in a state of civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen's embattled government.
According to UN officials, more than 70,000 people have been killed in the war, while more than 11 per cent of the country's population has been displaced.