Why Roma migrants from Europe take rafts from Mexico to enter the United States

Among the hundreds of Central American migrants crossing the Rio Grande River on rafts daily from Mexico to Texas, dozens have stood out in recent days. They were generally taller and some wore skirts, stylish shoes and tracksuits, while many other migrants wore t-shirts, pants and jeans.

The American patrol boats who apprehended them near the river tried to speak to them in Spanish. There was a pause as some of the border workers explained in broken English that they were Romanians, a Reuters photographer said.

Dozens of Romanians who are part of the Roma ethnic minority have crossed the US-Mexico border into South Texas in recent weeks to seek asylum, pointing to the distant origins of some of the migrants who helped in the border arrests these days. past months, reaching a 20-year high. Read more

Reuters saw large groups of these migrants crossing the Rio Grande on rafts on several occasions in May. The migrants Reuters spoke to said they were fleeing racism in Romania and wanted to seek asylum in the United States.

Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe and have a long history of social exclusion and discrimination.

For three weeks, a Reuters photographer saw nearly 200 Romanians crossing at various locations along the Texas border, numerous groups of extended families of 10 to 15 people.

Border patrol officers have so far apprehended 2,217 Romanians in fiscal year 2021, more than the 266 captured in fiscal year 2020 and the 289 in fiscal year 2019, according to data provided by the US Customs and Border Protection Agency.

More than 2,000 Romanians crossed the southwest border in fiscal 2016. Current arrivals are expected to be the highest since 2007, the first year for which data on citizenship arrivals are available.

Margareta Matache, director of the Roma program at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, said that many Roma had fled Romania to escape persecution and dire economic circumstances, partly fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

“Currently, US policies and policy proposals offer hope for more humane and just policies, including for immigrants,” said Matache. “They (the Roma) are looking for a better life in a place where they are not exposed to violence, discrimination and disrespect.”

Romania’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found in a 2016 survey out of almost 8,000 Roma in nine European countries, around 80% of the Roma population lived below the national poverty line.

There is no official count of the population of Roma, who reside in many countries and have long faced prejudices in Europe and the world. Most live in Eastern Europe, especially Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary.

According to Romanian media, many Romanian migrants fly from Paris to Mexico City as tourists because they do not need a visa to enter Mexico. Then, the smugglers take them by bus to the US border where they cross the Rio Grande by boat or raft.

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