Colombia – long a starting point for much of the cocaine smuggled into the US – has now become a major hub for smuggling people from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico. And, although this particular boatload of Africans may not have posed a security risk to the US, authorities are increasingly concerned that the Colombian human-trafficking hub could bring in terrorists.
Alarm bells start ringing
"About a year and a half ago, the alarm bells went off when we started detecting a growing number of illegal immigrants passing through [Colombia]," says Felipe Muñoz, director of Colombia's domestic intelligence and immigration agency, known as DAS. "It's become a hub because it [is in] a strategic position to reach Central America."
In 2009, Colombian authorities captured more than 480 illegal immigrants from China, Somalia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, and other countries in Asia and Africa. "We don't know how many actually got through undetected," says Mr. Muñoz.
Once in Central America, these immigrants join the thousands of Latin Americans who make the treacherous journey to the Mexican-US border.