Frequently assisted by intermediaries, the porous borders and lax visa policies of Nicaragua render it a prime choice for serving as a “donkey route.”

Nicaragua, the compact Central American nation, has once again captured headlines for unfavorable reasons, as an Indian flight to the country faced grounding amid accusations of transporting illegal immigrants.

In recent times, the Caribbean-bordering small nation has experienced an influx of immigrants, not with the intention of settling, but rather to transit. While it remains a sought-after destination for those interested in real estate investment, there’s a darker side to the recent surge. Many exploit it as a “donkey route” for illegal crossings into the US.

What prompts individuals to journey to Nicaragua ?

The influx of travelers to Nicaragua stems from various motives, whether seeking an unconventional retreat or exploring business prospects. Yet, on the flip side, a significant number exploit this picturesque Central American nation as a launching point for illegal immigration into the United States and Canada.

Frequently aided by intermediaries, Nicaragua’s permeable borders and lenient visa policies make it an enticing destination for the establishment of a “donkey route,” enabling migrants to access countries neighboring the US and Canada. Once these illegal migrants reach their destination, they often traverse the American and Canadian borders on foot.

Is a visa required for Indians visiting Nicaragua ? 

A documented agreement signed by Pranab Mukherjee within the MEA indicates a mutual understanding between the governments of India and Nicaragua, permitting Indian passport holders to enter the country without a visa. Nonetheless, conflicting information arises from another report suggesting that the Nicaraguan embassy does not issue tourist visas. Consequently, individuals with valid USA/UK/Schengen visas can reportedly obtain Nicaragua visas upon arrival. This combination of ambiguous visa regulations and a permeable border has contributed to the attractiveness of Nicaragua as a haven for illegal immigration.

How is Nicaragua Employing Illegal Immigration as a Strategic Tool?

In recent times, Nicaragua has emerged as a pivotal point for migration due to its relaxed entry requirements, enabling Indians and select foreign nationals to acquire a low-cost visa without the need for proof of onward travel.

As reported by AP, more than 260 charter flights, suspected to be transporting migrants from Haiti, have landed in Nicaragua over the past few months. Manuel Orozco, director of the migration, remittances, and development program at the Inter-American Dialogue, stated in response to an AP inquiry, “The Ortega government recognizes the limited policy tools at their disposal to confront the United States, … so they have adopted migration as a means of attack. This serves as a concrete instance of weaponizing migration as a foreign policy strategy.”

An investigation by AP revealed a clandestine industry of charter flights orchestrating the movement of ‘donkey travelers’ throughout the Americas. These migrants arrive at Managua airport and are subsequently illicitly transported north, primarily in proximity to Mexico, where attempts are made to cross the border on foot.

Travel agencies in South America leverage planes from low-budget Latin American airlines for these ‘donkey flights.’

Indians constitute the third-largest illegal immigrant community in the US 

As Informed by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). In 2023 alone, 96,917 Indians were apprehended attempting to enter the US illegally, contributing to a total estimated population of 725,000 illegal Indian immigrants in the country. The report highlights a notable detail that a significant portion of these individuals traverse into the country barefoot. Among the arrests, 30,010 occurred at the Canadian border, while 41,770 took place at the Southern border.

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