After surviving the Darien Gap, refugees describe their detainment in Mexico as the “real hell.”
By Arvind Dilawar for The Nation on September 24
“'Cameroonians can legally enter Ecuador due to a visa-free agreement implemented in 2008,' explains Brooke Kipling, a researcher with Humanizing Deportation. 'This agreement between Cameroon and Ecuador gives thousands of Cameroonian refugees a legal entryway into Latin America. They fly from either Cameroon or Nigeria to Ecuador to begin the perilous journey to the Mexico-US border.'
According to a 2019 report from the think tank Inter-American Dialogue, citizens of Eritrea, Senegal, Ghana, Gambia, and Cameroon ranked among the top 10 nationalities immigrating to Ecuador from 2010 to 2017. While it’s unclear how many continued traveling north to the United States, a 2017 report from the Department of Homeland Security depicts a dramatic rise in the apprehension of undocumented immigrants from Africa in the years following Ecuador’s visa reform.
A project of UC Davis, Humanizing Deportation shares the firsthand stories of migrants to better illustrate the connections between immigration policy and its consequences. As a graduate student of Spanish at UC Davis, Brooke has been part of Humanizing Deportation’s research team in Tapachula, Chiapas—Mexico’s southernmost state—where she met Valentin and others who crossed the Darien Gap. According to Kipling, refugees refer to the gap as 'a graveyard of migrants.'"