What do Latin America and Africa Have in Common?

Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are vastly different regions of the world situated thousands of miles apart from one another. At first glance, it is not quite apparent that these areas have anything in common. However, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa share a commonality regarding ongoing immigration and migration crises. These crises and their importance to nearby regions raise concern when examined as a humanitarian issue. Citizens from both regions have decided en masse that immigrating or emigrating to Europe or the United States of America may possibly result in a better life for themselves and their families. To many, it is worth the risk, as immigrants and migrants can potentially become legal citizens of a nation. Conditions such as decreased educational opportunities, a stagnant economy, or unequal access to food and water are among the reasons in which an individual or family might pursue a better life elsewhere. Yet, for a growing number of immigrants and migrants, chances of starting a new life are never realized.


The Brooking Institute provides statistics from four Latin American nations – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico – which illustrate a sharp increase of immigration to the United States of America, up until about the year 2010. Since then, as seen below, immigrants between 15 and 40 years of age have not migrated to the United States of America with as much frequency as prior decades. The reasons behind the origins of the decline in El Salvador and Mexico can perhaps be attributed to Mexico’s improving economy or by migrants traveling differently to arrive at either Mexico or, in some cases, the United States of America.

Latin America & Mexico Migration Rates
Source: “Along the Watchtower: The rise and fall of U.S. low-skilled immigration” by Gordon Hanson, Chen Liu, and Craig McIntosh, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring 2017.


Similarly, Sub-Saharan migration has almost doubled from 1990 to 2013, as seen below. Reuters reports that in 2016, over 180,000 migrants traveled throughout Africa to arrive in Italy.  Located directly south of Italy via the Mediterranean Sea, Libya was the choice of 90 percent of migrants seeking to escape the continent, as reported by The Local, an Italian news website.  For immigrants and migrants that arrive in Italy from Libya, the process of seeking asylum and being placed throughout Europe has been ideal. Given the extreme number of migrants attempting to reach European soil, the process of seeking asylum has become so overwhelming that deals are being sought with African nations so that migrants reaching European land are returned back to Africa.

Latin America & Africa
Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Shifts in current policies may further reduce the influx of immigrants and migrants seeking refuge in Europe and the United States of America. Although migrant and refugee human rights are recognized by international law, this does not ensure that the process of seeking asylum will be granted by any nation.  As of December 2016, the European Union has founded the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, with the eventual goal being “the eradication of the root causes of migration, alongside measures on remittances and the promotion of voluntary returns to the countries of origin.”


On the other hand, potential asylum seekers and refugees migrating to the United States of America from Latin America face similar, upcoming restrictions. Current protections exist in the form of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Conversely, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) is all but canceled as the bill continues to be fought in court. Another barrier for potential immigrants and migrants attempting to enter the United States of America is the Mexico – U.S. Border Wall. This, coupled with stringent changes in legal policies, may reduce the number of immigrants, migrants and refugee seekers that will attempt to enter the United States of America in the future. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether any of the policies in either region will permanently reduce or terminate a pair of crises whose answers become more urgent by the day.

Christopher Pratts

Christopher Pratts is a contributor for Politicsay. Christopher graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Global Technology and Development and Interdisciplinary Studies. Christopher’s work focuses on human development, immigration rights, international development, and LGBT rights in Africa and Latin America.


Christopher Pratts