HomeNewsBriefUruguay Dismantles Ring Smuggling Chinese Migrants

Uruguay Dismantles Ring Smuggling Chinese Migrants


Authorities in Uruguay have dismantled a network that smuggled Chinese migrants from Brazil to Argentina, highlighting the flow of migrants and human trafficking victims through the Southern Cone.

The operation was carried out by Uruguay's special anti-crime unit with the collaboration of international police body Interpol in the departments of Rivera, Salto, Paysandu and Montevideo, and resulted in the detention of 33 people. Among them were three Argentine nationals and six undocumented Chinese migrants, both male and female.

According to newspaper El Pais, the Chinese citizens are believed to have entered by crossing the Rivera border from the neighboring Santana do Livramento municipality in Brazil's Rio Grande del Sur department, and from there planned to travel to Argentina.

There is some confusion over whether the Chinese were illegal migrants or trafficking victims. According to EFE, once in Argentina, the migrants were intending to obtain false documents then leave for the United States. However, other reports said the Chinese were to be used as forced labor in Argentina.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is not the first case to highlight links between Uruguay and China. Authorities are aware of at least 50 Chinese migrants that have been smuggled through Uruguay in the past two years, and in December last year, security forces dismantled a human trafficking network allegedly dedicated to moving Chinese and Dominican citizens from Uruguay to Argentina for the purpose of forced labor.

It is not clear whether the Chinese migrants discovered in Uruguay were victims of human trafficking or had paid smugglers to help them enter the United States. Argentina, where some reports claimed the migrants would have been forced to work, has earned a reputation as a human trafficking hub and a destination for victims forced into prostitution or other work. The flow of illegal migrants through Latin America, though, is mostly concentrated further north.

growing number of Asian and African migrants are attempting to enter the United States illegally by crossing the Mexican border, with around 2,300 cases registered in 2010 alone. Countries commonly used as transit points for illegal migrants include Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Guatemala. In one recent case, the head of passports in Guatemala's Department of Immigration, Jose Alberto de Leon Gramajo, was arrested on people smuggling charges for issuing false documents, highlighting the way in which official corruption has facilitated the trade.

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


Police discovered some 210 migrants from Brazil, India and Central America hidden in a truck that was traveling on a…

CHILE / 21 OCT 2021

Authorities in Chile are on high alert due to reports that a Venezuelan gang known as Tren de Aragua is…


In a surprise that comes just days after an historic vote by Uruguay's lower house to legalize marijuana, the country's…

About InSight Crime


Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…


Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…


Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…


InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…


Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…