Saudi border fence threatens to impose real siege on Yemeni people
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia is resuming a project abandoned in 2004 to build a three-metre (10-foot) fence the length of its border with Yemen, a Saudi newspaper confirmed on Friday.
Reports that the project was back on had already drawn condemnation from human rights activists who accused Saudi Arabia of dealing a new blow to its impoverished neighbour after deporting thousands of Yemeni workers under new labour regulations in recent weeks.
The fence along the 1,800-kilometre (1,125-mile) border will consist of a network of sandbags and piping, fitted with electronic detection systems, Arab News reported.
"Tightening security along the border with its southern neighbour has become more urgent for the kingdom after the Yemeni revolution in 2012 and the subsequent turmoil," the paper said.
It was referring to the departure from power early last year of veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh in a deal brokered by impoverished Yemen's wealthy Gulf neighbours to end 11 months of violent protests in 2011.
Al-Qaeda took advantage of the decline in central government control during the upheaval to seize control of swathes of southern and eastern Yemen during 2011.
Despite a counter-offensive by the army last year, backed by US drone strikes, the jihadists are still active in the desert east.
A first section of fence has already been built along the Red Sea coast to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Africa.
Saudi Arabia first launched the fence project in 2003 but stopped the following year in the face of Yemeni protests.
Regional activist group, the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies (GFCS), said on Wednesday the project's resumption threatened to "impose a real siege on the Yemeni people."
It said that the fence, coupled with the deportation of thousands of Yemeni migrant workers, will "certainly cause ... a real humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen."
"These policies foster terrorist groups ... and will transform Yemen into a time-bomb," it warned.