US Officials Insist African Migrants Do Not Have Ebola

CDC response to the Ebola epidemic. Image: CDC

“Portland officials tweeted that rumors some of the migrants are carrying the Ebola virus ‘are patently false,’ and said that as asylum seekers, they are in the U.S. legally.”

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanish-speaking migrants.

Officials in Texas and even Maine are scrambling to absorb the sharp increase in African migrants.

They are coming to America after flying across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and then embarking on an often harrowing overland journey.

In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants found walking in separate groups along the arid land after splashing across the Rio Grande, children in tow.

That is more than double the total of 211 African migrants who were detained by the Border Patrol along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border in the 2018 fiscal year.

“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” said Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector.

The immigrants in Texas were mostly from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Cameroonians have also been traveling up through Mexico and into the U.S. in larger numbers and seeking asylum at ports of entry.

On recent Saturday in Tijuana, there were 90 Cameroonians lined up to get on a waiting list to request asylum that has swelled to about 7,500 names. Also on the waiting list are Ethiopians, Eritreans, Mauritanians, Sudanese and Congolese.

Cameroonians generally fly to Ecuador because no visa is required and take about four months to reach Tijuana … Read more. 

U.S. Southern Border Cities Brace For Surge Of African Migrants

Heard on Morning Edition, June 18, 20194

Carrie Kahn

NPR – Latin American refugees are not the only ones seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border. A record number of African migrants are traveling up through Mexico, seeking asylum at U.S. ports of entry.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Who are the asylum-seekers crossing from Mexico into the U.S.? You probably think it’s people from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and that is right. But for years, migrants from Africa have also come through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States. Now they’re coming in unprecedented numbers, and U.S. cities are getting ready. Colleen Bridger is a city official in San Antonio.

COLLEEN BRIDGER: We are expecting more migrants from Central Africa. So we’re keeping our French speakers on standby in case we need them. We’re rallying once again to try to get some more funds to be able to buy tickets when folks get here and don’t have a way to get their ticket to their final destination.

KING: NPR’s Carrie Kahn is on the line from Mexico City. Carrie, this is really extraordinary. If you just picture a globe, what is the journey like from Central Africa all the way to Central America?

CARRIE KAHN: Oh, it’s incredible. And for so many, it’s just harrowing. Many come by boat. They also come in flights into South America. They come into boats into Brazil, flights, too, into Ecuador. And then they just start that trek northward through Colombia and into Panama. And that’s a – just a treacherous stretch. That stretch between Colombia and Panama, it is a hundred-plus-mile stretch known as the Darien Gap.

And there are no roads. It is a mesh of mountains, jungles and swamps that are now rampant with drug traffickers, smugglers and just bands of robbers … Read more. 

Porous border could hinder efforts to stem spread of Ebola

MPONDWE, Uganda (AP) — Several well-trodden paths crisscross this lush area where people walk between Congo and Uganda to visit nearby family and friends and go to the busy markets.

The problem is that the pedestrians may unknowingly be carrying the deadly Ebola virus, and hindering efforts to control the current outbreak in eastern Congo, which has killed more than 1,400 people.

The busy border post is open 12 hours a day from 7 a.m., but after dark people walk along the “panyas,” or “mouse paths,” as the narrow dirt trails are known in the local Kiswahili language.

The footpaths show the close kinship between the two countries, where most people have relatives on both sides of the border. But as Ebola rages they are a source of worry for health workers and local authorities trying to prevent any further cross-border contamination.

Eastern Congo has battled the Ebola outbreak since last August and last week the disease spread to Uganda, where two people died of the hemorrhagic fever …

The Ebola deaths in Uganda happened after a family of Congolese-Ugandans traveled to Congo to care for a family elder suffering from the disease.

Authorities believe members of that family, including a 5-year-old boy and his 50-year-old grandmother who have since died of Ebola , took a footpath back into Uganda. In doing so, they may have exposed many Ugandans to the viral disease.

The current outbreak in eastern Congo has become the second worst, after the West Africa epidemic of 2014-2016 in which more than 11,000 people died.

The virus can spread quickly via close contact with bodily fluids of those infected and can be fatal in up to 90% of cases. Read more.