Top U.S. and Brazil diplomats discuss 'unprecedented' migration

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca (L) on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York, U.S. on September 21, 2021. Kena Betancur/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Brazilian counterpart Carlos Franca to discuss "unprecedented" regional migration and ways to collaborate to slow the number of migrants heading north, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The call between the senior diplomatic officials of the two largest economies in the Americas comes as a record number of Brazilians arrive at the southern U.S. border, part of a wave of people from Latin America fleeing a region hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Southern border apprehensions have jumped to their highest levels in 20 years in recent months, causing political and logistical headaches for U.S. President Joe Biden.

In the call, Blinken and Franca discussed "the unprecedented irregular migration movements throughout the hemisphere," and how the two nations could work together "to halt the growing uncontrolled flow of irregular migrants in the region," according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Diplomatic efforts are under way to slow the arrival of Brazilians.

Mexico is slated to impose visa requirements for Brazilian visitors, according to a document from Mexico's Interior Ministry. Mexico has not required visas for Brazilians since 2004, giving migrants an easier path to enter the country and proceed north.

Reuters reported last week that Washington has, since July, asked Mexico to impose visa requirements on Brazilians.

During the first 11 months of the 2021 fiscal year, 46,280 Brazilians were apprehended at the southern U.S. border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data show, compared with 17,893 for all of 2019.

Blinken also praised Brazil's "leadership in assisting vulnerable populations of migrants, including Haitians and Venezuelans."

Last month, Reuters reported that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had asked Brazil to receive some Haitian migrants camped along the U.S.-Mexico border.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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