MEXICO CITY (AP) — El Salvador’s government has begun slapping a $1,130 fee on travelers from dozens of countries connecting through the nation’s main airport, amid U.S. pressure to help control migration flows to its southern border.

Since the end of October, citizens of 57 largely African countries and India have had to pay the fee, according to El Salvador’s aviation authority.

Aviation officials did not say whether the measure was aimed at reducing migration and have described the tariff as an “airport improvement fee,” but El Salvador’s government acknowledged an uptick in travelers from those countries this year. Also, the U.S. has been pressuring Central American countries to curb migration flows to its border with Mexico. U.S. authorities say they stopped migrants there more than 2 million times during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

El Salvador’s aviation authority said most passengers who have to pay the fee are headed to Nicaragua on the commercial airline Avianca. Because of its lax visa requirements, Nicaragua is a transit point for migrants from Haiti and Cuba, as well as from Africa, who are trying to reach the U.S.

Earlier this year, for example, U.S. officials were surprised by an increase in Mauritanian migrants arriving at the southern border. No natural disaster, coup or sudden economic collapse could explain it. Rather, travel agencies and social media influencers were promoting a multileg trip that took migrants from the west African nation to Nicaragua.

A flight itinerary of one Senegalese migrant seen by The Associated Press showed the migrant passing through Morocco, Spain and El Salvador before landing in Managua. The last two legs were aboard Avianca flights.

Source: Seattle Times

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