BRASILIA – Brazil's northwestern state of Acre declared a "social emergency" on Wednesday as it attempts to slow a wave of undocumented immigrants smuggled overland from neighbouring countries.
"More than a thousand illegal immigrants have entered over the past month," said Nilson Moura, Acre's Secretary for Justice and Human Rights.
One of Brazil's smaller states, Acre borders the states of Amazonas to the north and Rondonia to the east. To its southeast is Bolivia, while Peru is on its south and west.
Moura said the new arrivals have come from some of the poorest corners of the world, including Haiti and Bangladesh. Others have come from Senegal, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, and elsewhere, he said.
The Amazon rainforest state "has been turned into an international travel route controlled by coyotes," said Moura, referring to the smugglers who – often in exchange for exorbitant fees – guide the undocumented foreign migrants into Brazil.
Officials said the migrants began as a trickle in December 2010 and quickly numbered 4,300 Haitians. Authorities in Acre said they now have detained some 1,300 immigrants at a facility in the town of Brasileia built to hold 200.
"We have shortages of space and water, and illness," Moura said, adding that he feared that the miserable conditions could lead to an epidemic of even more serious disease.
Officials here said that they issued the emergency decree in hopes of procuring assistance from Brazil's federal authorities.
"We've been really surprised by the arrival of the Africans," Moura said.
"I spoke with the Senegalese: We had 53 the day before yesterday, and 70 more arrived today," he said.
"They travel to Spain, from there to Ecuador," he added. "From Ecuador, the coyotes bring them here, as well as the Haitians." – afp