Migrant Crisis Reveals African Immigrant Plight in Latin America

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Stranded immigrants sleep outside a border control building in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, April 22, 2016. Photo/AP

At the border of Panama and Costa Rica

More than 600 people from several African countries are stranded after crossing the Atlantic by boat to Brazil. Some take the migration pass through to Ecuador from Peru and then from there to Colombia where they make there way to Panama, before getting stuck at the border of Panama and Costa Rica.

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Google Map Data 2016

And more are arriving everyday.

African immigrants face an uncertain future anywhere they go, whether it be North America or Europe, but what is certain is that many Africans have also sought for “greener pasture” through first going to Latin America, specifically Central and South America, and most if not all remain worse off than they were in their countries of conflict.

African immigrants come from all parts of Africa – Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.

Many have centered their hopes of new lives on eventually getting to the United States but are stuck in Panama, the sight of which the famous Panama Papers leak gets its name and the home for many offshore accounts and shell companies has also become an uncomfortable “home” to these immigrants.

There they are called “extracontinentales” loosely translated as the “outsiders” or the other coming from outside the continent. Most living at the border point between Panama and Costa Rica are sleeping on the street and washing themselves with the water that falls from rain.

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A volunteer aid worker hugs an African refugee. Assisting African, Haitian and Cuban Refugees at the Costa Rica and Panama Border. Photo/Goddirect.net December 2015.

Faith based organizations, and churches provide what they can to famished immigrants in terms of food but their souls are filled with dreams of a better life and better days. There constant fear is deportation with little or no means let alone funds to gain proper immigration status. If they happen to commit a crime their journey out of the country returns some of them to Colombia, Peru, and then Ecuador, most likely because Ecuador has a more lenient immigration policy.

Many flee from war and civil conflict, especially those leaving from DRC, where immigrants dealt with political crises, wars and economic distress over the course of a decade. The final dream destination for all is none other than the United States – the “American Dream.”

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Migrants have a discussion with a police officer at the Costa Rican border, Paso Canoas. April 2016. Photo/Ticotimes.net

But they all gather at the border point between Costa Rica and Panama waiting for the chance to move further north, where Costa Rica and Nicaragua have restricted border entry because of the number of African, Asian, Haitian and Cuban refugees trying to enter. Estiven Madden, a member of the Costa Rican Migration Police explained to TVN news in April (translated from Spanish) that he and his team would not permit any person to enter the country without the proper documentation and his orders were in compliance with the decrees of the State.