Europe’s Toughened Borders Result in Migrants Seeking to Reach AmericasAugust 24, 2016 in Europe
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Europe’s toughened borders are prompting migrants to switch their focus to the United States however their trek is being thwarted in Central America, where a bottleneck has formed.
The IOM has reported that in Costa Rica, a makeshift camp has sprung up, housing hundreds of Africans and Haitians. Elsewhere in the country, smaller numbers of Afghans and Pakistanis are biding their time to head north, with officials estimating that there are now 2,000 such migrants in the country. They are being stalled by Nicaragua, which eight months ago strictly closed its border to migrants without visas. The move was carried out in order to mainly stop the flow of thousands of US-bound Cubans through its territory. That closed-door policy however has also trapped what are being called “extra-continental” migrants – effectively meaning those who are coming from outside Latin America.
In the wake of the March 2016 agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey, which aims to send back migrants trying to reach Europe through Greece, coupled with eastern European states building barriers across their borders, the number of migrants in Costa Rica has increased. The IOM’s representative in Costa Rica, Roeland de Wilde, discloses that “we have documented cases of people telling us they chose this route to the United States or Canada because they felt that getting to Europe was too dangerous, that it was too difficult to enter Europe or the conditions in Europe weren’t what they hoped for,” adding that most of them seem to be coming through from Brazil and other South American countries that are facing declining economic situations.” Wilde further reported that the Pakistanis and Afghans, who account for around 10 percent of the migrants, are well-organized and often lay up in basic hotels, adding that most who states that they are from Africa are making do with plastic sheets strung up as shelter by the roadside.
The IOM however notes that not all of the latter are “extra-continental” migrants, although many pretend to be. According to Wilde, “more than half” of the migrants who present themselves as Africans are from Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean country with a predominately black population that speaks French. He adds that “they say they are Congolese, but when questioned they don’t know form which part of Congo they come from,” adding, “sometimes they say Kinshasa or Brazzaville, mixing up one Congo for the other. When asked which ethnicity they belong to, they have no idea.” The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whose capital is Kinshasa, and the Republic of Congo, ruled from Brazzaville, are neighbours located in central Africa. While both use French, the former is riven by deadly ethnic violence in its east, increasing the odds of emigrants from there receiving asylum.