HomeNewsBriefHuman Smuggling from Asia to Latin America On Rise
BRIEF

Human Smuggling from Asia to Latin America On Rise

BRAZIL / 12 NOV 2019 BY MARIA PAULA CHAPARRO EN

Authorities dismantled a transnational human smuggling ring that brought migrants from South Asia to Brazil and then transported them all the way to the US-Mexico border, relying on a vast network of smugglers and charging thousands for their services.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Brazilian authorities conducted a joint operation on October 31, arresting Saifullah Al-Mamun, a Bangladeshi national who was living in São Paulo after entering Brazil six years ago as a refugee. He has been charged with eight counts of human smuggling, according to a US federal indictment.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile

Brazil authorities said that the ring moved some $10 million and had been in operation since 2014, smuggling hundreds of migrants. Seven other people were arrested during the operation and 42 bank accounts linked to the smuggling ring were seized, US prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, Al-Mamun brought the migrants to Brazil on commercial flights and then arranged for their travel through network of smugglers operating in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

In the city of Tapachula, along the southern Mexico border, the migrants were met by Mohamed Milon Hossain, a Bangladeshi national in Mexico, who was arrested on August 31 and pleaded guilty to human smuggling charges. Milon Hossain secured the migrants’ flights to northern Mexico.

There, the migrants were met by Moktar Hossain, a Bangladeshi national living in Monterrey who has also pleaded guilty to human smuggling charges. He arranged for their lodging and  their movement to Rio Grande and finally their smuggling across the Texas-Mexico border.

The service cost around $12,500 per person, Reuters reported. The fee covered not only the long, dangerous journey but also the creation of false papers. It was also reported that a lawyer was helping the ring with migration issues and requests prior to migrants arriving in Brazil.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Central American migrants are the focus of US authorities, this bust shows how Latin American networks are used to move Asian migrants to the United States.

This highly organized smuggling ring operated across two continents, maintained smuggling contacts in at least eight countries, and created credible false documents that permitted the migrants to seek asylum and board commercial flights.

The smuggling of migrants from Asia to South America is on the rise, according to a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The migrants  often arrive by commercial flight to São Paulo, where international smuggling rings -- like the one busted recently -- use local smuggling contacts to coordinate the logistics of moving the migrants on the dangerous journey north.

Colombian authorities have been stopping large groups of Asian and African migrants since 2015. The migrants first trek across the Darién Gap, a mountainous rainforest between Colombia and Panama. Once in Central America, they face the same threats as other migrants: robbery and violence by gangs that patrol smuggling routes. Such attacks are also common in Mexico, where the migrants must also contend with mafias that demand fees for safe passage.

SEE ALSO: How and Where Organized Crime Preys on Migrants in Mexico

Tapachula, a Mexican city along the northern Guatemala border, is a major entry point for migrants outside of Latin America, according to a 2018 Organization of American States report, titled “Irregular Migration Flows to the Americas from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.” The report also noted an increase in the use of false documents.

According to Roeland De Wilde, head of the International Organization for Migration in Costa Rica, it is likely this type of people smuggling will increase in Latin America, given the increasing difficulties which migrants from a number of Asian countries face when entering Europe.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 19 JUL 2012

Twenty people have been arrested in Texas accused of being members of a ring which trafficked weapons to the Zetas…

ARGENTINA / 21 SEP 2015

Footage shot using a hidden camera sheds light on the dynamics of the Southern Cone’s illicit arms trade, showing how…

AMIGOS DOS AMIGOS / 22 OCT 2014

A photo has emerged of suspected members of Rio's Amigos dos Amigos gang sporting weapons in a swimming pool set…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

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…

THE ORGANIZATION

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

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…

THE ORGANIZATION

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…