HomeNewsBriefIncreasing African Migration through CentAm Poses Challenges
BRIEF

Increasing African Migration through CentAm Poses Challenges

COSTA RICA / 21 JUN 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Officials say Costa Rica is experiencing an increase in irregular migration from Africa, signaling the growth of new human smuggling networks and raising a number of questions for policymakers to consider when handling this complex issue.

Gladys Jiménez, the interim head of Costa Rica's national immigration agency (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería), told La Nación in a recent interview that as many as 20,000 African migrants are currently en route to Costa Rica. That figure represents more than a two-fold increase from the estimate of 9,000 offered last month by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González before the Organization of American States. 

According to Jiménez over 20 routes for African migrants have been identified, with the migrants often leaving by boat or airplane from Spain, Portugal, or countries in western Africa. After arriving in South America -- usually in Colombia or Brazil -- the migrants then make their way north to Central America, many of them hoping to eventually reach the United States. (See La Nación's map below)

16-06-21-CentAm-Migration

Jiménez said the region is not prepared for such an influx of migrants.

"We thought at some point that if the nations of the region seek a response, this can be regulated," she said. The problem, Jiménez added, is that efforts between countries have been inconsistent. 

For various reasons, accurate data on irregular migration from Africa is difficult to obtain. However, statistics from Mexico's National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración - INM), cited by the BBC in May 2016, show a large increase in the number of African migrants detained by the agency in recent years -- from 545 in 2013 to more than 2,000 in 2015.

An increase in the number of migrants from Cuba has similarly caused concern among regional authorities. In November 2015, Nicaragua closed its border with Costa Rica to prevent Cuban migrants from traveling through its territory, which in turn prompted Costa Rica to close its border with Panama. Last month, Panama announced that it would temporarily seal its border with Colombia in an attempt to halt irregular migration flows.

InSight Crime Analysis

There is little doubt that the rising number of migrants from Africa is contributing to the coffers of human smuggling networks. According to El País, African migrants pay between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars to be smuggled through Latin American routes. One migrant consulted by the Tico Times speculated that some networks are smuggling Africans directly into Central America, avoiding the circuitous path through South America.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

With the potential arrival of thousands of African migrants on the horizon, Central American policymakers have been seeking solutions at the regional and international levels. However, the increase in irregular African migration through Latin America has been linked to a tightening of migration restrictions in Europe as a response to that region's own migration crisis, which stems from widespread unrest in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. Given the current anti-immigrant political climate in Europe, there is little hope for policy changes there that could ameliorate the situation in Central America. Similarly, current US immigration policy holds little promise for accommodating additional flows of irregular migrants.

Therefore, it appears that Central America may have to handle the issue of rising African migration largely on its own. Given the resource constraints and institutional vulnerabilities of many nations in the region, this could prove to be a particularly challenging task. 

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

BRAZIL / 28 FEB 2013

Brazil has announced a three-year plan to combat human trafficking, including tougher border controls and a revision of the penal…

COSTA RICA / 11 SEP 2018

Authorities in Costa Rica arrested an alleged leader of an international drug trafficking organization while he was dining with the…

COSTA RICA / 2 MAY 2019

A bumper seizure of ketamine bottles in Costa Rica shows evidence that the Central American Country is seeing growth and…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

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…

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.