A new kind of immigrant heads south, not north, from Ecuador: they are pursing the ‘Argentinian dream’
Most foreigners who use Ecuador as a transit point for a new home, head north to the U.S. Several thousand, however, have headed south to Argentina in search of a better life.
Migration records show that between 2012 and 2014, 3,458 citizens of Senegal landed in Ecuador and the vast majority of them proceeded on to Argentina, usually traveling overland through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Only 3.9% of the Senegalese who arrived in Ecuador exited the country legally, immigration officials say.
According to reports that have followed up on the phenomenon say that almost all of the Senegaliese are heading to a growing community of Africans in Buenos Aires. The trip south, from Quito and Guayaquil, takes from 20 to 30 days.
Responding to complaints from Argentina and Bolivia, Ecuador began requiring that citizens of Senegal obtain a visa prior to traveling to Ecuador. Senegal joins a group of nations whose citizens must have a paper visa to enter Ecuador that includes Cuba, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.
Ecuador says that records of human trafficking and terrorism require the action. Citizens of all other countries all allowed to enter Ecuador with only a passport.
In addition to responding to the requests of Argentina and Bolivia, Ecuador immigration officials say they have discovered that Senegalese criminal groups were operating in the country, arranging trips to Buenos Aires for exorbitant rates.
“There were similar Cuban mafias operating in Ecuador to offer passage for Cubans to the U.S.,” said Juan Mesa of the Exterior Ministry that overseas migration issues. “We have a responsibility to safeguard all visitors to our country and will not tolerate criminal ‘coyote’ activity involving either nationals or foreigners,” he said.
The Senegalese who make it to Buenos Aires usually settle in the neighbourhoods of Constitución or Once, known by some as ‘The Little Dakar.’ The Senegalese join other west Africans who arrived earlier in Argentina.