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Tougher Europe borders push more migrants towards US

Posted By: RumorMail
Date: Sunday, 24-Jul-2016 11:35:55

A makeshift camp in Costa Rica's Penas Blancas, close to the border with Nicaragua, houses hundreds of Haitians, Congolese, Senegalese and Ghanahian migrants who are all waiting to continue their journey to the United States (AFP Photo/Ezequiel Becerra)

Peñas Blancas (Costa Rica) (AFP) - Europe's toughened borders are prompting migrants to switch focus to the United States, but their trek is being thwarted in Central America, where a bottleneck has formed, according to the International Organization for Migration.

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.

They are being stalled by Nicaragua, which strictly closed its border eight months ago to migrants without visas, mainly to stop the flow of thousands of US-bound Cubans through its territory.

But that closed-door policy has also trapped what are called "extra-continental" migrants -- those coming from outside Latin America.

There are an estimated 2,000 such migrants in Costa Rica.

Their number has increased since March, since the EU did a deal with Turkey to send back migrants trying to reach Europe through Greece and eastern European states built barriers across their borders.

"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," said the IOM's representative in Costa Rica, Roeland de Wilde.

"Most of them seem to be coming through from Brazil and other South American countries that are facing declining economic situations."

The Pakistanis and Afghans, accounting for around 10 percent of the migrants, are well-organized and often lay up in basic hotels, de Wilde said.

Most of the ones saying they are from Africa are making do with plastic sheets strung up as shelter by the roadside.

- Haitians pretending to be Africans -

Not all of the latter are "extra-continental," although many pretend to be.

"More than half" the migrants presenting themselves as Africans are from Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean country with a predominantly black population that speaks French, de Wilde said.

"They say they are Congolese, but when questioned they don't know from which part of Congo they come from," he said.

"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, whose capital is Kinshasa, and the Republic of Congo, ruled from Brazzaville, are neighbors in central Africa.

-------------------

They often communicated in languages and accents suggesting they were Haitians trying to hide their nationality.

Most said they had worked in Brazil for several years, but decided to leave when that country's economy dived into recession.

"When I arrived in Brazil, it was great: there was a lot of work in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Things got difficult in 2014, the economy got worse, and in 2016 I could no longer support my wife and my kid," said Eddie Miche, a 27-year-old wearing the blue-and-red of Haiti's flag though he said he was from Congo.

Miche's lot was better than the others. He was staying in a shelter set up by the Costa Rican government in community centers and sports halls. But there was not enough room to accommodate all the migrants.

In any case, all were determined to find a way to get through the closed borders, to America.


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