Police in Ecuador have dismantled a group that allegedly smuggled Nepalese and Bangladeshi migrants through Latin America into the United States, another example of the region's growing use as a bridge for human smuggling from South Asia.
The four Nepalese nationals were picked up in two operations at an interprovincial transport company in the town of Villa El Salvador, and at a shopping center in the district of Independencia, reported Peru21 and El Comercio.
The organization brought Nepalese citizens into Bolivia and through Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico using fake documents, before taking them over the border into the United States, El Comercio's report added.
According to Peru 21, Colombia was also included in some routes, and the migrants traveled by land and air.
InSight Crime Analysis
This case adds to a number of reports this year indicating what appears to be an increasing trend: South Asians being smuggled or trafficked through Latin America. East Asia to Latin America is a long-established route, but this South Asian route has historically been far less common.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons stated only around 2 percent of South Asian trafficking victims end up in Latin America or North America, compared to 20 percent of East Asian victims.
However this year has seen Bangladeshis trafficked into Brazil to work, Nepalese and Bangladeshis transported through the Darien Gap, and Indians and Sri Lankans transported to Ecuador's port city of Guayaquil.
Ecuador is a prime transit nation due to its extremely lax immigrations regulations enacted in 2008. Citizens of almost every country in the world are allowed to enter for 90 days without a visa.
Organized crime groups from Colombia, Russia and China, among others, have taken advantage of the freedom of movement. According to one senior US official, in every major case of non-Mexican and non-Central American migrants illegally entering the United States in 2009, the migrants had passed through Ecuador.