As More Migrants from Africa and Asia Arrive in Latin America, Governments Seek Orderly and Controlled Pathways

Caitlyn Yates
Date of Publication: 
October, 2019
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

While still small, the number of extra-continental immigrants from African and Asian countries arriving in Latin America seeking resettlement in the United States and Canada has been steadily rising over the last 5 years. Extra-continental immigrants often travel first to South American countries with lax visa requirements, including Ecuador, Brazil, and Guyana, with the eventual intention of settling in the US or Canada. Many end up staying in South America due to challenges in the migration journey and increased restrictions at the US border. In FY2018, for example, Mexico registered ten times as many apprehensions of African immigrants (2,699) than the US (222). The reasons for extra-continental migration are largely due to natural disaster, economic needs, and political violence. Traditionally Latin American countries have undertaken little immigration enforcement, with rare deportations, but there are some signs that this trend is shifting. Ecuador, for example, added 11 new countries to its visa requirement list in 2019, including those with the most prevalent extra-continental immigration figures. However, both the cost of deportation and lack of repatriation agreements with African and Asian countries make removal less likely from Latin America than Europe or the US. The author believes that the situation can be improved by addressing the root causes of migration. Better coordination on immigration policies between nations is also necessary to address new arrivals in an orderly, humane manner. Clarifying US immigration policy around asylum will also better assist Latin American countries in forming their own policy response to arrivals from Africa and Asia. (Julianne Weis, Ph.D)

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Yates, C. (2019). As more migrants from Africa and Asia arrive in Latin America, governments seek orderly and controlled pathways. Retrieved from