Migration politics forcing risky routes leading to modern slavery

Migration politics forcing risky routes leading to modern slavery and death

  • Published on
    April 16, 2024
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  • Category:
    Human Trafficking, Law & Policy
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A new people smuggling route has opened across the Carribean Sea via the Bahamas for those attempting to reach Florida and seek asylum in the U.S. But last November, 30 people died trying to cross when their boat capsized off the coast. A stretch of jungle called the Darién Gap which spans the border between Colombia and Panama is another popular route for migrants heading North, but countless numbers have died trying to trek through it. The politics of migration and border control are in the headlines almost every day. But behind the headlines are real lives being impacted, risked and lost according to an article in IPS News. Due to a lack of safe channels of migration and effective asylum systems people are traversing perilous pathways and falling victim to human trafficking, exploitation and tragedy in larger and larger numbers.

When safe routes are closed off, people take risky ones

Millions of people in Latin American and Caribbean countries are on the move, fleeing authoritarianism, political insecurity, gang violence, extreme poverty and an increasing number of climate disasters. Most remain in countries around the region as they present fewer challenges for arriving migrants, however they also offer limited opportunities. That is why, despite tightening immigration policies, the USA remains a strong pull for migrants. That means people are heading into the jungle of the Darién and taking to the sea in increasing numbers, willing to risk their lives for the dream of a better life. According to the United Nations’ Missing Migrants Project, in 2023 a minimum of 1,275 people died or went missing during migration in the Americas.

Ana Maria Diez, Coalition for Venezuela said:

“It is impossible to talk about the Darién without talking about trafficking networks, human smuggling, sexual abuse and children crossing unaccompanied…older people, entire families. Their vulnerability exposes them to all kinds of abuse. “

Driven by a lack of opportunities, discrimination, high levels of inequality and unmet social needs, US authorities had a record 2.4 million encounters with unauthorized migrants at the border in the 2022 fiscal year. Many of those unauthorized travelers had crossed the Darién Gap and then headed across Central America and Mexico.

Stage set for a “race to the bottom” for migrants

In May 2023 the Biden administration finally lifted Title 42, a Trump administration order used to immediately expel those caught crossing the border, with no right to apply for asylum. But coupled with that, several new rules were issued, known collectively as the ‘asylum ban’. Before showing up at the border, migrants are required to make an appointment using the controversial CBP One smartphone app or have proof they previously sought and failed to obtain asylum in all the countries they’ve travelled through on their way to the U.S. If migrants can’t comply with these requirements, they’re automatically presumed ineligible for asylum and can be subjected to expedited removal. However, it’s very difficult to get an appointment and the CBP One app frequently fails, compounded by the fact that many migrants don’t have smartphones, adequate wi-fi or any sort of data plan. As they often also face language and education barriers, they are exploited by people pretending to help. After traveling a route where human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and labor exploitation is a featured risk, and sexual violence is used as a means of payment to pass through different points controlled by migrant smuggling structures, migrants are now facing exploitation at the border. Now with the election looming the prospects look bleak.

Inés M. Pousadela from IPS News Agency wrote:

“As far as (migrants) rights are concerned, the election campaign is a race to the bottom. A Trump victory could only bring further bad news – but a Biden win is unlikely to promise much progress.”

That also means regardless of the outcome, people will keep taking to the sea or venturing through the jungle and increasing their risks to murders, disappearances, trafficking, robbery, and intimidation by organized crime operatives, according to a report from the U.N. Human Rights Commitee.

Freedom United stands with those demanding politicians recognize this reality and commit to supporting safe migrations routes and upholding the human rights of all who strive to find a future regardless of where they came from or are going to. It’s easy to pin the blame for modern slavery on traffickers alone, but we know that vulnerabilities to modern slavery are in fact perpetuated by our systems and are often a political choice. If you haven’t already, join us and sign our petition calling for an immediate overhaul to the global approach to migration. Because safe migration routes help end human trafficking.


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Donald R Greaves
1 month ago

The Immigration Trail of Ununwanted Illegal Aliens invading other Country’s like an Infestation is a Problem. That they become Alledged Victims of Human Trafficing is a Problem, only God can Handle. Have You Prayed Today?

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