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Blinken says US targeting those ‘preying’ on migrants

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) speaks next to Guatemala's President Bernardo Arevalo (L) during the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial meeting in Guatemala City on May 7, 2024
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) speaks next to Guatemala's President Bernardo Arevalo (L) during the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial meeting in Guatemala City on May 7, 2024 - Copyright AFP JOHAN ORDONEZ
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) speaks next to Guatemala's President Bernardo Arevalo (L) during the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial meeting in Guatemala City on May 7, 2024 - Copyright AFP JOHAN ORDONEZ
Edgar Calderon

Washington is redoubling efforts to disrupt migration routes that lead to the United States, in particular via charter flights to Central America, top diplomat Antony Blinken said at regional talks Tuesday.

The secretary of state led the US delegation at a meeting in Guatemala of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, a cooperation framework agreed to at a summit in California in 2022.

The United States has “stepped up efforts against those preying on vulnerable migrants,” notably those flying people from Asia, Africa and elsewhere to Central America, Blinken said.

In February, Washington announced a new visa restriction policy that targets “individuals who knowingly provide transportation to those intending to migrate irregularly to the United States, including through charter flights arriving in Nicaragua,” he said.

On Monday, the United States unveiled visa restrictions on Colombian maritime migration executives who are facilitating irregular migration, Blinken added.

“We’re redoubling our efforts to protect migrant workers from exploitation,” he said.

Washington has been wooing Guatemala’s new administration as a partner on migration, with presidents Joe Biden and Bernardo Arevalo meeting in March. That visit also saw the announcement of $170 million in US aid.

The month before, Guatemala also agreed to three-way cooperation with the United States and Mexico on migration.

In a speech to the regional meeting, Arevalo called for “safe, orderly, humane and regulated migration.”

The former lawmaker, diplomat and sociologist took office in January, following unsuccessful attempts by the political establishment to block the inauguration of the underdog anti-corruption campaigner.

– Nicaragua not in attendance –

Foreign ministers and other senior officials from around 20 countries took part in Tuesday’s talks.

“We’re convinced that migration is a multilateral challenge and it is from there that we must find joint solutions,” Chilean Vice Foreign Minister Gloria de la Fuente told AFP.

Diego Beltrand, the International Organization for Migration’s director for North and Central America and the Caribbean, urged participants to “agree on concrete action plans” to address the crisis.

Record numbers of migrants have been seeking to enter the United States, largely from Central America and Venezuela, as they flee poverty, violence and disasters exacerbated by climate change.

Nearly 2.5 million people were intercepted at the US-Mexico border in the 2023 fiscal year to September, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

The issue has emerged as a top political issue with Biden’s Republican challenger in the country’s November elections, former president Donald Trump.

US-bound migrants arrive in Central America not only by land but also by air and sea to avoid the treacherous Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama. 

Complicating matters for the United States is that some of the migration along the way is legal.

Nicaragua for example serves as a waypoint for Asian and African migrants taking charter and commercial flights, helped by a more relaxed Nicaraguan visa policy, according to US officials and Central American analysts.

Nicaragua did not attend Tuesday’s talks and did not sign the 2022 declaration.

Biden refused to invite the leftist leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the Los Angeles summit on the grounds that they are authoritarians.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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