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El Salvador slaps a $1,130 price on African and Indian vacationers as US pressures it to curb migration

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MEXICO CITY — El Salvador’s authorities has begun slapping a $1,130 price on vacationers from dozens of nations connecting by the nation’s important airport, amid U.S. strain to assist management migration flows to its southern border.

Because the finish of October, residents of 57 largely African international locations and India have needed to pay the price, based on El Salvador’s aviation authority.

Aviation officers didn’t say whether or not the measure was geared toward lowering migration and have described the tariff as an “airport enchancment price,” however El Salvador’s authorities acknowledged an uptick in vacationers from these international locations this 12 months. Additionally, the U.S. has been pressuring Central American international locations to curb migration flows to its border with Mexico. U.S. authorities say they stopped migrants there greater than 2 million instances throughout the fiscal 12 months that ended Sept. 30.

El Salvador’s aviation authority stated most passengers who need to pay the price are headed to Nicaragua on the business airline Avianca. Due to its lax visa necessities, Nicaragua is a transit level for migrants from Haiti and Cuba, in addition to from Africa, who’re making an attempt to achieve the U.S.

Earlier this 12 months, for instance, U.S. officers have been shocked by a rise in Mauritanian migrants arriving on the southern border. No pure catastrophe, coup or sudden financial collapse may clarify it. Quite, journey businesses and social media influencers have been selling a multileg journey that took migrants from the west African nation to Nicaragua.

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A flight itinerary of 1 Senegalese migrant seen by The Related Press confirmed the migrant passing by Morocco, Spain and El Salvador earlier than touchdown in Managua. The final two legs have been aboard Avianca flights.

El Salvador’s aviation authority and immigration company each stated they didn’t have knowledge on what number of migrants from the listed international locations had transited the nation this 12 months.

A U.S. embassy spokesperson declined to say whether or not the U.S. had requested the price. However the skill to assist the U.S. management migration may very well be a political boon for El Salvador President Nayib Bukele as he seeks reelection regardless of a constitutional prohibition and faces scrutiny for his human rights document.

Throughout President Donald Trump’s administration, U.S. coverage towards El Salvador prioritized reining in migration above all else and Bukele heard no public criticism from the U.S. as he started to consolidate energy. Beneath President Joe Biden, the U.S. has been overtly vital of Bukele’s document on democracy and human rights.

The U.S. State Division alleged that Bukele’s battle in opposition to highly effective avenue gangs has resulted in “torture and different merciless, inhumane or degrading therapy or punishment, and different associated abuses” to tens of 1000’s of individuals detained. His authorities has additionally gone after journalists, activists and critics.

However migration now seems to be again on the prime of the bilateral agenda for the 2 international locations as Biden additionally seeks reelection.

Whereas the Biden administration has stated Central American nations “ must step up and do extra” to regulate migration, not all of them have acquired the request with open arms.

“Most governments have acknowledged that what’s of clear curiosity to the USA is migration and so subsequently it turns into a bargaining chip,” stated Pamela Ruiz, Central America analyst for Worldwide Disaster Group. “They’ll both grow to be companions or adversaries on this concern.”

Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador have labored with the U.S. to open facilities for migrants seeking to request asylum, apply for household reunification or momentary work permits.

Then again, Nicaragua has opened its doorways to tons of of constitution flights carrying tens of 1000’s of U.S.-bound Cuban and Haitian migrants in current months.

The flights — which one analyst described as Nicaragua “weaponizing migration as a overseas coverage” — have been met by a fierce warning from the Biden administration.

“We’re exploring the complete vary of doable penalties for many who facilitate this type of irregular migration,” wrote U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols in a put up on X, previously Twitter, this month. Haiti’s authorities introduced the constitution flights have been being quickly suspended.

As Bukele once more got here beneath criticism in current weeks as he registered to hunt reelection in 2024, the Biden administration was cautious in its remarks.

“There needs to be a broad debate in regards to the legality and legitimacy of the election, however it’s a debate for Salvadorans,” Nichols stated throughout a current go to to El Salvador and forward of a gathering with Bukele.

The feedback have been a pointy distinction to condemnations of “anti-democratic conduct ” in neighboring Guatemala’s elections months earlier.

Bukele “is keen to cooperate on immigration by banning sure nationalities by charging them a ridiculous price with a purpose to not get critiqued on the worldwide stage,” stated Ruiz, of Disaster Group. “A part of me wonders … we is not going to critique the Bukele administration as a lot as a result of it’s supposedly lowering the degrees of migrants?”


Related Press author Marcos Alemán in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributed to this report.


Observe AP’s migration protection at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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