More Roma citizens of Romania attempting to cross from Mexico into the USA to seek asylum this year
The Reuters wire service reports that the US authorities have recorded a rise recently in the number of Roma who are citizens of Romania, an EU Member State, attempting to cross from Mexico into the USA by sailing rafts across the Rio Grande river, the natural border between Mexico and the state of Texas in the USA. The rafts have attracted the attention of US border guards in recent weeks, as has the migrants' appearance.
"They were noticeably taller [than migrants there usually are] and instead of wearing the usual t-shirts and jeans they were wearing skirts, stylish shoes and sportswear," Reuters reports. When US border guards arrested the migrants at the river and attempted to speak Spanish with them, a long period of silence ensued.
According to a photographer for Reuters, the migrants then explained in broken English that they are not from Mexico, but are citizens of Romania. Specifically, these migrants were Roma from Romania, who explained to Reuters that they are fleeing Romania because of racism and want to seek asylum in the USA.
According to media reports from Romania, many such migrants fly from Paris to Mexico City as tourists because they do not need visas to enter Mexico. Once they arrive, smugglers take them by bus to the US border, where they cross the Rio Grande on boats or rafts.
The photographer for Reuters said that during the last three weeks he has seen almost 200 such citizens of Romania at different points along the border with Texas, many of whom were with extended family groups of between 10 and 15 people. According to data from the US Customs and Border Patrol, border guards have arrested 2 217 Romanian passport holders so far this year, exponentially more than were arrested in 2020 (266) or 2019 (289).
In the year 2016 more than 2 000 citizens of Romania crossed the southwestern border of the United States. The number of this year's arrivals is the highest recorded since 2007, the first year for which there is data available about applications filed by arriving migrants seeking citizenship in the USA.
Margareta Matache, the director of the Roma Program at Harvard University, which is part of its FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, says many Roma flee Romania to escape the desperate economic situation there, which currently is partially a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to escape persecution on the basis of their ethnicity. "Current US policy is offering the hope of more humane, just treatment, and that also applies to immigrants," Matache said.
"Roma are seeking a better life in a place where they will not be subjected to violence, discrimination or disrespect," Matache explained. The Romanian Government says they have yet to receive reports from US authorities about citizens of Romania who have been detained, but confirmed that representatives of the Embassy of Romania have been in communication with local authorities after reading news reports about Romanian citizens being involved.
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