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Kombo Yannick: Anglophone Crisis Survivor Speaks Out

Tijuana, Mexico - Kombo Yannick is one of the increasing number of African migrants and asylum seekers, as well as others from Asia and the...

Tijuana, Mexico - Kombo Yannick is one of the increasing number of African migrants and asylum seekers, as well as others from Asia and the Middle East, who have attempted to reach the US via Latin America over the last several years.

He and his wife stood in a group of Cameroonian asylum seekers. Next to them, were those from Eritrea, Pakistan, and central Mexico, each speaking their native languages, their voices drowned out by the sound of roaring traffic from the nearby highway overpass.

The line at the border can last for hours or even days, so many of those who wait camp out in tents, waiting for their turn for an interview with US Customs and Border Protection.

Yannick, a 30-year-old pastor from Cameroon, waited in line with about 100 other asylum seekers at the US-Tijuana border on a chilly afternoon in late December.

He and his wife had been in Tijuana for two days, and were speaking with an aid worker about where to find a bed for the night.

"My only goal is to find a way to cross the border," Yannick said, rubbing his gloved hands together to keep warm. We don't know exactly where we will go, we just have to wait," he told Al Jazeera.

Due to the danger involved in crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe, many people from African countries are instead choosing to seek asylum in the US, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which also attributes the trend to the overall rise in global migration.

Over the past several years, Mexico has seen a spike in asylum seekers from African countries, like Cameroon. The number of Cameroonian asylum seekers to Mexico increased from 23 in 2016 to 105 in 2017, according to data provided to Al Jazeera from UNHCR.

The number of Cameroonians applying for asylum in the US has also increased by nearly 140 percent - from less than 600 to more than 1,300 - from 2012 to 2016, UNHCR said.

But, the number of Cameroonians who are granted asylum in the US has dropped steadily since 2007. According to UNHCR, this couldn't be attributed to any particular change in policy.

Although the route from Africa to the US via Latin America is significantly longer and comes with risks, it is considered less dangerous than going by boat to Europe via the Mediterranean.

As of June 6, more than 780 people died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, en route to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration. Yannick's journey from Cameroon to Tijuana began in June 2017.

He and his wife took a series of busses across West Africa, travelling more than 3,000km from Cameroon to Senegal. From there they flew to Ecuador, which many African migrants use as an entry point into the Americas because of its easy visa requirements for African nationalities.

From Ecuador, they travelled north through Colombia to the Panamanian border. There, the most difficult part of their journey began.

"We saw corpses along the way," said Yannick of their week-long trek through the Darien Gap, between Colombia and Panama. That's where you see people giving up and saying they can't continue."

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