[dehai-news] (Independent, Malta) Costa Rican police uncover Malta-US African migrant route

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Dec 08 2008 - 09:56:22 EST

Costa Rican police uncover Malta-US African migrant route

African migrants let out of detention in Malta have left the country and
have ended up as far away as South America in an attempt to illegally gain
entry to the United States, an investigation carried out by the Costa Rican
immigration police has revealed.

Costa Rican authorities have uncovered what they say is a network
trafficking African migrants from Europe to the United States, using Latin
America as a bridge.

As a result of the investigation, the Costa Rican authorities this year
deported 25 Eritreans, four of whom were apprehended just two weeks ago
while posing as tourists near the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border.

Investigations carried out by the Costa Rican authorities, a Costa Rican
police statement said this week, have identified a route by which Africans
leave from Malta, travel to Venezuela and make their way overland through
Panama, Costa Rica, the rest of Central America and Mexico from where they
attempt to move enter the United States.

Another route identified by the Costa Rican police sees African migrants
illegally obtaining travel papers in Italy, travelling on to Spain and then
to Costa Rica, Mexico and finally their intended destination the United
States, after facing the daunting and dicey US-Mexico border.

The Costa Rican Public Security Ministry said in a statement this week,
"Apparently there is a network dedicated to relocating Africans from one
country to another with the goal of enabling them to reach their final
destination, which is the United States."

The fact that at least hundreds of irregular migrants released from
detention in Malta, and given travel papers by the government, clandestinely
make their way out of Malta and onward to mainland Europe is an open secret.
But the fact that some then make their way to South and Central America and
then to the US, through the network identified by the Costa Ricans, is new.

Speaking in an interview last year, then home affairs and justice minister
and current foreign minister, Tonio Borg acknowledged how Malta's migrants
proceed to the wider EU once released from detention in Malta.

"If they were able to leave Somalia, for example, risk their lives crossing
the Sahara, enter Libya and then take a second perilous journey to cross
over to Europe and only to stop as close as Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta
many will take the additional risk of trying to cross over to mainland
Europe," he had acknowledged.

He added, "I don't think we should be surprised that this happens. Only one
in four migrants in Italy actually remain in the country. As such, don't
expect Malta to keep all the migrants it receives. We are not even capable
of keeping all that arrive in Malta even if we wanted to.

"While the problem is there, and it is of gigantic proportions, there is
also this natural safety valve. No one could stop someone who is adamant in
continuing his or her journey after having risked so much to arrive here in

"My appeal to my European colleagues is that if they are going to leave the
peripheral States to deal with the problem on their own, they could
temporarily postpone the problem but, ultimately, burden sharing will come
just the same but in a disorganised way. As such, it would be a
short-sighted policy to leave the Mediterranean States facing this problem
alone alone because, ultimately, this problem will be shared by everyone."

Apparently, not even the daunting prospect of crossing the Atlantic to South
America, travel through Central America and Mexico and run the gauntlet
across the Mexican-American border is enough to dissuade migrants bent on
reaching the US.

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