How an African sought asylum at the Tijuana / U.S border

An extraordinary article describes Tijuana today, crammed with persons deported from the U.S., and others trying to get into the U.S. as asylees. Here is a snapshot of one asylum seeker from Guinea:

“Three young Guinean men stood in a group, evidently nervous. One had a bandage around his foot from a snake bite suffered in a South American jungle. Another, named Alpha Barry, had quick, friendly eyes and a wide smile and deep scars across his lips. Barry’s front teeth had been shattered. He told me that he was a member of a large ethnic group called the Peul that is scattered across West Africa and currently in conflict with the Malinke and Sousou ethnic groups in Guinea. Barry ran an internet café in Conakry, the Guinean capital, until somebody stole his computers. He reported the loss to police only to have the thieves return and beat him so severely that he spent two months in a coma and emerged with a severe stutter.

“Many Guinean asylum-seekers flee across the Mediterranean into Europe. Barry had a cousin in Maryland, so he chose the Western Hemisphere analogue. He flew to Brazil, where Guineans can get tourist visas, then rode buses north. In Colombia, he joined migrants from all over the world — Pakistanis, Eritreans, Nepalis, and Malians — for the 60-mile walk through the Darién Gap, a roadless rainforest that separates Colombia from Panama and harbors jaguars, FARC rebels, and right-wing paramilitaries. Navigating by scraps of cloth tied to trees, they were all bound for Tijuana. Migrants shudder when they speak of this part of the passage; they describe bandits routinely robbing and raping migrants, dead bodies by the trail, and people slipping off cliffs and drowning in rivers. Barry crossed Panama next and then walked across Nicaragua at night to avoid criminal gangs. Once he reached Honduras, he started riding buses north.”

The article provides this context:

“In the summer of 2016, a wave of migrants from outside Latin America began arriving in Tijuana. The collapsing Brazilian economy was one reason, as thousands of Haitian-born workers there fled north. The escalating global refugee crisis also contributed, as ports of entry across the U.S. southern border reported 150 percent increase in asylum applicants over the previous year, including 2,788 Indians, 1,717 Chinese, 1,672 Romanians, 518 Bangladeshis, 531 Nepalis, 583 Ghanaians, 408 Cameroonians, 293 Eritreans, 158 Guineans, and many others.

“Everyone was coming to the front door from everywhere in the world,” says Father Patrick Murphy, the Catholic priest who runs Casa del Migrante. “From May 2016 until January 2017, we had 2,000 refugees from 32 different countries. You had to pull out Google translator and figure stuff out.”

Source: California Sunday Magazine


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