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Latest update : 2018-04-14

From Brazil to Canada: the new odyssey for African migrants

Canada has become the new El Dorado for many African migrants, who have seen Europe and the United States close their borders. But they face a dangerous journey across South and North America. Every year, some of them die on their way to a better life, amid widespread indifference to their plight. For five months, our reporters followed Rosette and her family from DR Congo on this long, dangerous odyssey across ten countries.

In the space of five months, Rosette and her family have travelled more than 20,000 kilometres – risking their lives. First, they fled DR Congo for Brazil. Then, from Sao Paulo, where they arrived on a tourist visa, they crossed South America – including the perilous Colombian jungle – before reaching the United States and finally their Canadian El Dorado. They traversed ten countries in total, in the hands of powerful clandestine networks of people smugglers and cartels, and corrupt policemen or soldiers who control the borders. They often crossed paths with cocaine smugglers heading for North America.

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During the five months that we spent with Rosette, her husband Godet and their daughters Maria and Pauline, we saw many other migrants heading north to Canada. On this route, where a human life is worth just a few handfuls of dollars, Congolese, Malians, Senegalese, Nepalese and Bangladeshis try to blend in with the flow of South American and Caribbean migrants. But some will never reach their destination.

We spent longer on the most dangerous stage of the journey: a vast stretch of jungle called the Darien Gap, the only way of getting from Colombia to Panama. Finally, we reached the Canadian border, which is seeing an unprecedented wave of illegal migrants crossing daily to seek asylum, all of them desperate for better lives.

[Update on April 18, 2018: After managing to cross the Mexico-US border, Rosette, Godet, Pauline, and Maria reached Portland, Maine, on the north-eastern coast of the United States. They spent all their savings on the journey, but they are safe and sound. The family is now looking to raise the few dozen dollars it needs to get to the Canadian border.]

Report by François Rihouay. A Keep In News production with teams from France 24, Radio Canada, and RCN (Colombia).

By François RIHOUAY

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