MANAGUA: The decomposing bodies of eight apparently US-bound undocumented migrants have been found in Lake Nicaragua, a Nicaraguan police official told AFP Tuesday.
"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 US asylum.
The bodies were those of seven men and a pregnant woman.
They were found between Sunday and Tuesday floating near the southern shore of Lake Nicaragua, near the town of Cardenas, just three kilometers (two miles) from the border with Costa Rica.
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 last year, 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, Colonel 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.