An increasing number of African refugees fleeing violence are travelling through various parts of Latin America to eventually reach U.S. with the hopes of building a new life. However, they are facing roadbloacks, complications and corruption along the way, according to local reports.
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Thousands have been estimated to be coming to Latin America via sea and air, with many using clandestine human smuggling routes due to violence in Africa and tightening border restrictions in Europe.
Increased border enforcement within Latin America has made undocumented migration increasingly dangerous, with many migrants falling prey to organized crime marked by a subsequent increase in corruption and human smuggling across the region, according to analysis from the International Crisis Group.
While the clandestine nature of migration means that accurate numbers are hard to judge, nearly 3,700 African migrants from 24 states came through Mexican migration centers in the first half of 2016, according to data from the Institute of National Migration in Mexico. Of those, 53.7 percent came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where thousands have fled from civil unrest.
Thousands of Africans - many without documentation - are thought to pay smugglers between US$ 5,000 to $10,000 to travel to Latin America, according to El Pais.
Many Africans have been stuck in Mexico, swelling towns close to the U.S. border. As Mexico does not have deportation agreements with many African governments and cannot hold migrants in facilities for more than three months, most receive exit permits from Mexico and then continue their journey toward the U.S.
In June, Gladys Jimenez from Costa Rica’s national immigration agency estimated that up to 20,000 refugees from Africa were expected to land in the country. Jimenez said that the region is not equipped to handle the African surge and identified over 20 smuggling routes, who commonly arrive in Colombia or Brazil and make their way north.
Increasing refugees from Africa, as well as Cuba, are becoming stranded in Costa Rica and setting up camps near the Panama border. This then prompted Costa Rica to close its border with Panama, blocking northbound passages for migrants.
A number of Latin American countries have criticized U.S. immigration policy within the region, saying that the so called “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy has encouraged the dangerous migration of Cubans within the region and fueled the an ongoing migration and humanitarian crisis.
Thousands of refugees are also looking to flee to the U.S. via Mexico from the so-called northern triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, one of the most dangerous regions in the world outside of a war zone, with an estimated 50,000 homicide victims in the last three years.