URUGUAIANA - Deportations, detention centers, �coyotes� helping to stow away immigrants in car trunks and boats to try to cross borders undetected. Although it may sound like a scene along the border between the United States and Mexico, this is instead the deep south of Brazil.
Uruguaiana, a town in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), is located right next to Uruguay and just across the river from Argentina. And it has now become a main crossing point for illegal immigrants hoping to enter Brazil.
In recent months, Brazilian Federal Police have arrested a growing number of people accused of providing accommodation and buying transportation tickets for undocumented foreigners looking to find a new home in Brazil.
Senegalese, Nigerians, Chinese and Haitians have been found this year in Uruguaiana without �minimum conditions to survive,� authorities report. The town has about 125,000 inhabitants and is close to the main road access between Brazil and Argentina. Police suspects that immigrants come from Buenos Aires and sneak through Uruguaiana, with the aim of heading to big Brazilian urban centers like S�o Paulo, where employment opportunities tend to far outstrip the rest of Latin America.
According to the police, the same route is also used by foreigners bringing in imported black-market goods to be sold in Brazil without paying taxes�they are called "sacoleiros", a reference to the big bags (sacolas) that are used to transport the large amount of products. Other foreigners arrive in the area with the intention of joining criminal organizations in Brazil, the police say.
Boats and taxis
Crossing into Brazil in small boats is more common in areas with a lighter police presence. Taxi drivers also help foreigners by hiding them in their cars for an extra fee. In June, a Brazilian and an Argentinean were arrested crossing the river by boat with an undocumented African man. They charged fees beginning at $100 for the service.
Perhaps the most mysterious case occurred two weeks ago. Two Chinese men were arrested for guiding 12 other people from China into Brazil. Most of them were young, none had any official identity documents. Their destiny and motivation are still unknown. One of the leaders had a fixed residence in S�o Paulo, according to the police. The other one had ten fake driver licenses. All 12 Chinese claimed to be tourists.
During the same week, four others suspected of being �coyotes� (human traffickers) were arrested�three Brazilians and one Argentinean.
In Brazil, those convicted of involvement in illegal immigration face up to three years in prison.
Read the original article in Portuguese
Photo - ana_ge