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 / 8 AUG 2012

Nearly half of the 40,000 local, state, and federal law enforcement officials recently found unfit for duty were concentrated in…

COCAINE / 9 FEB 2021

In September 1989, Los Angeles police broke open the cheap padlock that was the only security on a warehouse in…

MEXICO / 18 JUL 2013

A new law in Mexico aims to combat money laundering by limiting cash transactions and requiring businesses to report suspicious…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…