Chinese migrants
Image of Chinese migrants Reuters

Ecuador announced it will suspend a visa waiver agreement with China following a surge of arrivals that authorities say then go on to migrate irregularly.

The country's Foreign Ministry called the trend "worrying" and said it noticed that about half of all arrivals from Chinese nationals to the country then didn't leave "through regular routes" within the 90 days they are allowed to stay under the agreement. The agreement had come into effect in 2016.

According to the U.S. Niskanen Center, Ecuadorian authorities recorded 48,381 arrivals in 2023 but records only show 24,240 departures. The disparity was the largest of all nationalities.

The majority of Chinese entrants to Ecuador are male and under 40 years old. This composition aligns with China's gender imbalance due to the one-child policy, where surplus men may seek opportunities abroad. Most migrants also belong to the middle or high-skilled professional category, indicating a certain economic capability and resourcefulness required for such journeys.

Ecuador is one of two countries in South America that didn't require a visa for Chinese nationals, the other one being Suriname. The announcement comes as people from China have become one of the top nationalities of migrants reaching the U.S. southern border through irregular means.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Juan, on his end, said that Beijing "firmly opposes all forms of human smuggling" and that authorities have been "tough on all kinds of human smuggling groups and individuals engaged in illegal immigration."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data indicates a notable surge in encounters with Chinese nationals, which parallels Ecuadorian records showing a 235% increase in Chinese travelers compared to the previous five-year average. This convergence of data signals a growing trend of irregular Chinese migration into the Americas via Ecuador.

In 2023, U.S. authorities arrested more than 37,000 Chinese national at the southern border, more than 10 times than the previous year.

In December alone, the figure almost reached 6,000. Both countries recently started cooperating to deport nationals apprehended at the border crossing illegally. Most come from regions experiencing higher levels of political repression, with Hong Kong and Xinjiang featuring in the list, as well as Aksy and Altay.

The announcement by the Ecuadorian government could further help reduce the amount of people reaching the U.S. southern border as the Biden administration seeks to crack down on illegal immigration.

Figures have been decreasing over the year and continued doing so since the government announced an executive order drastically limiting asylum-seeking once the daily average of encounters over a week surpasses 2,500 apprehensions.

Concretely, Customs and Border Protection data shows an average of 560 daily encounters so far this month, compared to 750 in May. Border Report cited other sources saying that there were a little over 2,000 encounters along the Southwestern border on Monday, down from 2,460 on Sunday and 2,840 on Saturday.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.