The decomposing bodies of eight apparently U.S.-bound undocumented migrants have been found in Lake Nicaragua, a Nicaraguan police official said.

“They died by drowning. We believe they were Africans, going by the color of their skin,” said Mirian Rugma, of the Rivas regional police force.

However, officials dealing with migration through Central America have noted recently that many black migrants passing through the region are in fact Haitians trying to pass themselves off as Africans in hopes of boosting their chances of receiving U.S. asylum.

National police say the bodies of the seven men and a woman who appeared to be pregnant were found between Monday and Tuesday in Lake Nicaragua near the mouth of the Sapoa river, near the town of Cardenas, just 3 km from the border with Costa Rica.

Authorities are working to identify the dead.

Hundreds of migrants from Africa have been stuck in neighboring Costa Rica after Nicaragua closed its borders to people without the required travel documents in March.

Migrants have increasingly been trying to traverse the Central American region to get to the United States.

Rugma, speaking by telephone, said it was thought they had entered the country by coming by boat up a cross-border river that feeds into the lake.

The police issued a statement announcing the discovery of the bodies. “Given their physical characteristics and their clothes it is presumed they were people of African origin trying to enter the United States,” it said.

Autopsies determined death by drowning.

Since November, Nicaragua has bolstered security along its southern border with Costa Rica to prevent the entry of undocumented migrants.

As a result, there is a backlog of around 2,500 migrants staying in tents, schools, charity shelters, church properties and cheap hotels in Costa Rica, looking for ways to cross through to Nicaragua and continue north.

According to the International Organization for Migration, they include migrants from the Caribbean nation of Haiti as well as Africans.

Around 10 percent are also Pakistanis and Afghans who have switched attention to the United States after EU countries this year made it much more difficult to get in.

To get past the Nicaragua border, some of the stymied migrants are turning to people-smugglers who are charging them more than $1,000 each.

The commander for Nicaragua’s military in the south of country, Col. Alberto Larios, told the newspaper La Prensa that undocumented migrants were looking for border blindspots to cross, and some were attempting to cross the vast Lake Nicaragua by boat.


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