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Chinese asylum seekers headed for the US

24 January 20240 comments

Increasing numbers of Chinese asylum seekers are appearing on the US-Mexico border trying to enter America in a surprising new trend.

Reports from the US say that in the first 11 months of 2023, more than 31,000 Chinese citizens were detained by US migration officials crossing illegally into the US.

This compares with US Government data that shows an average of around 1,500 each year over the preceding decade.

The numbers are still small compared with people from regional neighbours like Mexico, Venezuela, and Guatemala, as well as other parts of the world.

But reports say the arrival of people from China who are risking the crossing highlights the urgency many people now feel to leave their homeland.

The reports cite many of the arrivals saying they left because they were struggling to survive.

Three years of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions imposed by China’s President Xi Jinping left people across China out of work and disillusioned with the Communist Party’s increasingly tight grip on all aspects of life. Added to this is China’s stuttering economy.

Other reports cite people expressing disillusionment about restrictions on personal life in China, where there has been crackdowns on free speech, civil society organisations and religion.

Yet more say they are Christians who find it difficult to practice their faith.

The Chinese asylum seekers have join others from around the world whose numbers have overwhelmed the US’ south western border with illegal crossings in recent months.

A recent CNN analysis says that people from China are on track to be the fastest growing group making these crossings.

As the numbers of Chinese asylum seekers have increased, a network of businesses and social media accounts catering to Chinese migrants has emerged to service the Chinese, who often must take a circuitous route across continents, before beginning the arduous, overland journey north.

The journey has been euphemistically termed the ‘walking route’ to America.

Reports say that Quito, in Ecuador, is an entry point in the Americas for many Chinese seeking to enter the US.

In 2022, Ecuador documented around 13,000 Chinese nationals entering. In the first 11 months of 2023, that number rose to more than 45,000. The country doesn’t require visas for Chinese passport holders.

A network of businesses caters to the arrivals including with airport pickups, accommodation at Chinese-run hostels and facilitating the journey north.

Convenience and department stores sell gear and goods needed for the trek north, while Chinese-run establishments offer housing, food and a place to link up with others headed to the US, reports say.

China’s COVID-19 controls, relaxed only 12 months ago, impacted blue collar workers in cities and rural areas particularly hard.

The Chinese economy continues to struggle – with property market failures, soaring local government debt and a pervasive crackdown on the private sector.

Last year, urban youth unemployment hit record levels prompting the government to stop publishing the data altogether.