HomeNewsBriefRising Africa-LatAm Migration Signals Growth of Smuggling Routes

Rising Africa-LatAm Migration Signals Growth of Smuggling Routes


Recent data from the Mexican government reveals new details about African immigration to Latin America, illustrating the growth of human smuggling routes from Africa to the Americas.

Figures from Mexico’s National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración – INM), reported by El Universal, indicate that nearly 3,700 African migrants -- more than half of whom came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- passed through Mexican migration centers during the first six months of 2016. According to elPeriódico, that figure represents a four-fold increase since 2014.

Sources consulted by the news outlets said that the migrants are often detained by Mexican immigration authorities after entering the country. Mexican law prohibits migrants from being kept in migration centers for more than 90 days (pdf), and since most of the migrants' countries of origin lack deportation agreements with Mexico, authorities generally provide them with a document known as an "oficio de salida," or exit permit, which allows them to remain in Mexico for 21 days.

After being granted an exit permit, African migrants often attempt to reach the border with the United States within the three week time limit in order to initiate proceedings to be given asylum in the neighboring country. As a result, Mexican towns bordering the United States are becoming saturated with an influx of migrants.

However, Mexico is rarely the point of entry for African migrants arriving in Latin America. Many migrants first arrive in Colombia or Brazil, paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to smugglers in order to be transported along routes that run north from South America. (See InSight Crime's graphic below)


InSight Crime Analysis

As InSight Crime has previously reported, the increasing number of African migrants entering Latin America has provided human smugglers with a lucrative business opportunity. Ongoing violence and political unrest in many parts of Africa, combined with tightening restrictions on immigration to Europe has likely contributed to this trend.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

Additionally, many of the routes used to smuggle African migrants are also used by those fleeing similar conditions in Central America and the Caribbean. And while Mexican authorities have recently announced a new strategy to clamp down on migration routes through through the country, past experience suggest that this is unlikely to slow migration flows. Instead, it could end up benefitting criminal groups, which not only charge migrants substantial smuggling fees, but also often kidnap them and force them into prostitution, drug smuggling and other exploitative industries.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Mexico remains the most dangerous country in the world for Catholic priests, according to a report from the Catholic Church…

COLOMBIA / 21 JUL 2015

US authorities fear Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may use his extensive criminal contacts in Colombia to escape the massive manhunt in…


In the tenth and final installment of a series of "myth-busting" blog posts, the Mexican government pointed out that…

About InSight Crime


Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…


InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…


InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.


Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…


Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.