Africans Seek Asylum in Latin America
By Dialogo January 01, 2010Increasing numbers of African immigrants are arriving in Latin America as European countries tighten border controls. They are escaping violence and civil war, and arriving on cargo ships or commercial planes. “One night I went to the seaport,” Sierra Leone immigrant Ibrahim Abdoul Rahman (pictured here selling jewelry in Buenos Aires) told Reuters news agency. “I was thinking I was going to Europe. Later I found out I was in Argentina.” He is a former child soldier who escaped from his country’s civil war by sneaking onto a cargo ship for a 35-day voyage. He is among more than 3,000 African immigrants living in Argentina, up from just a few dozen eight years ago. The number of asylum seekers each year has risen abruptly, to about 1,000 per year, and a third are African, according to Reuters. In Argentina, political asylum seekers can obtain temporary work visas shortly after arriving and renew them every three months. Free health services and Spanish lessons are also available. In Brazil, Africans are now the largest refugee group, representing 65 percent of all asylum seekers, according to the Brazilian National Committee for Refugees. More and more African immigrants are also making their way to Mexico and Central America.