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A popular passage used by thousands of Senegalese migrants to enter the US via flights to Nicaragua and a land route through Mexico has become practically “impossible”, a Senegalese man who made the trip has told Sky News. 

Local authorities have banned travel agents from selling plane tickets from Dakar to Nicaragua. Airports in Casablanca and Madrid – key transit hubs for the route – imposed transit visas on Senegalese passport holders earlier this year.

The crackdown comes after US authorities arrested Senegalese migrants 20,231 times for crossing the border illegally from July to December.

That’s 10 times more arrests than in the last six months of 2022, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Migrants begin their journey in Dakar.
Image:
Migrants begin their journey in Dakar

“There are some friends who ask how I did it, they were curious but didn’t have the money to make it,” a Senegalese man who made the journey in August 2023 tells us from his new home in the US.

“I put some of them in touch with the guy who helped me but some waited too long and now the route is closed.”

He says he spent 10 years’ worth of savings boosted by a loan from his sister to buy the £5,200 plane ticket to Nicaragua and pay £2,600 for smugglers taking them through Central America.

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Senegal has a 700 km coastline and many beaches are migrant departure points to the Canary Islands
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Senegal has a 700 km coastline and many beaches are migrant departure points to the Canary Islands

“It was very hard. I just got information from one of my friends that it was possible to attempt the US via Nicaragua and at that point I didn’t even have a passport,” he said.

He flew from Dakar to Casablanca to Madrid and after a 23-hour transit boarded a flight to Bogotá. From there, he flew to San Salvador and finally took a last flight to the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

After five flights, the difficult journey had only just begun.

‘Guys were celebrating… crying’

He boarded a bus from Nicaragua to Honduras and then to Mexico where smugglers transported them in pickup trucks and by foot to the US border.

The Atlantic route has been called the busiest and deadliest
Image:
The Atlantic route has been called the busiest and deadliest

He says he was robbed by gangsters multiple times as he traversed the tough terrain of rivers and mountains to make it to the fence.

“When they cut the fence and brought us across, guys were celebrating, crying and shouting. After that we had to walk for a long distance but we were too happy to feel it,” he said.

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Senegalese mourn deaths of hundreds trying to reach Europe
The UK is ‘not a safe country’, frightened asylum seekers say
Dad of girl who died explains why family tried to cross Channel

He spent two days at the border detention camp on the US-Mexico border before he was released.

It took him 18 days to make it and says that for others it can take a month. There is no doubt in his mind that he made the right choice, even as he waits for permanent status.

“Senegal is very hard – I went to university and have a masters degree. It is better [here in the US] than Senegal. What they pay here in one week is more than [what they pay] a month in Senegal,” he added.

It comes as Donald Trump is promising to crack down on illegal immigration and restrict legal immigration if elected in November to a second four-year term in the White House.

Meanwhile, his opponent in the US general election, Joe Biden, is mulling a broader executive order to crack down on border crossings that may come later this year.

Yet, young men across Dakar are working to earn money in case a similar route to the US taken by the Senagalese man opens.

Young men in Dakar are saving up to leave via safer more expensive options
Image:
Young men in Dakar are saving up to leave via safer more expensive options

The journey through Nicaragua to the US is seen as a safer – albeit expensive – alternative to the deadly Atlantic route to the Canary Islands by fishing boat and the arduous land journey through North Africa to the Mediterranean Sea and then across to Italy.

For those who have survived those routes, the cost of trying and failing is much higher than the thousands of pounds needed to get to the US.

‘I thought slavery was finished’

Window-cleaner Issa, 32, says he was enslaved, tortured and detained in Libya before agreeing to return to Dakar.

Young men returning from Libya are looking for safer options after experiencing torture and enslavement
Image:
Young men returning from Libya are looking for safer options after experiencing torture and enslavement

He now organises a support group called Young Migrant Returnees that meet to work through the trauma they experienced in Libya and other corridor countries and raise awareness around the dangers.

“It was incredibly difficult – forced labour – we faced terrible things and we don’t want it to happen to friends and family,” he said.

“There were many of us and a lot of them died on the road. Some of them were imprisoned but we had a chance to come back to our country.”

He added: “I will never forget those memories. I thought that slavery was finished but from what I’ve experienced it’s still happening.”

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Read more:
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Trump and Biden promise tough action on immigration
NY is a city of immigrants – but mayor says migration may ‘destroy’ it

Repelled from trying again via Libya and horrified by the hundreds of young men dying in the North Atlantic, they weigh up their options.

Issa’s brother was in Brazil when the Nicaragua route opened up and is now in the US.

“If someone presented us with an opportunity to leave, which is different to the Libya route, we will take it because we are living a hard life in Senegal,” he said.

“Even those who worked in factories – the pay cheque is not good.”

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directly called on his US and Chinese counterparts to join his latest summit for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy announced a “global peace summit”, co-hosted by Switzerland, starting on 15 June.

He claimed 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance.

But he said: “I am appealing to the global leaders of the world who are still outside the global efforts of the global peace summit.

“To President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China, we do not want the UN charter to be burned.

“Please show your leadership in advancing the peace.”

Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

He added that it must be “real peace – not just a pause in the strikes” after various ceasefire breaches by the Russians.

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Finally, he urged: “The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled.”

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Shopping mall hit by strike in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Printworks and shopping centre targeted this week

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with a pre-war population of 1.5 million people, is close to the frontline, and has been consistently targeted since the initial invasion in February 2022.

On Thursday, its ‘Vivat’ printworks, which is the country’s largest, was hit by missiles, killing seven people, and destroying an estimated 50,000 books. A further 21 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

On Saturday, a strike on a shopping centre killed six people, injured 40, and left a further 16 unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Elsewhere in the city, an additional 11 people were injured as a result of strikes, including a 13-year-old boy.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor there said four residents died as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Read more
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Ukrainians training without firing due to shortages
Putin thanks Xi for his Ukraine efforts

Mr Zelenskyy warned a new Russian offensive is being planned northwest of Kharkiv.

Ukrainians and military analysts have repeatedly warned of depleting weapon supplies on the frontline.

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Earlier this month the US agreed to a further $2bn (£1.6bn) in military support for Ukraine.

It has consistently resisted calls to send US troops there, in line with NATO’s refusal for direct involvement in the conflict.

China has resisted calls by NATO and its member states to take a direct stance against Russia in support of Ukraine.

President Xi hosted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a show of “friendship” earlier this month.

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza for the first time in months.

The barrage of rockets set off air raid sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the area of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion.

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You can receive breaking news alerts on a smartphone or tablet via the Sky News app. You can also follow @SkyNews on X or subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with the latest news.

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after ‘chain of explosions’

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after 'chain of explosions'

At least six newborn babies have died after a fire broke out at a children’s hospital in India, according to reports.

Firefighters said they carried 12 newborns out of the centre in the Vivek Vihar district of east New Delhi late on Saturday night, but five of them died due to smoke inhalation.

Two other infants are believed to have already died, according to local media. There are differing reports as to whether six or seven infants have been killed so far.

Another five survived and are being treated in a nearby hospital, Delhi fire department chief Atul Garg said.

The blaze, which broke out on the first floor of the hospital, was put out after about an hour.

Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of a baby care center in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 26, 2024. A fire broke out in the care center on Saturday night killing six infants, a fire service officer said on Sunday. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)
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Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of the hospital. Pic: AP

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Mr Garg told the ANI news agency that an oxygen cylinder blast was the likely cause of the fire, but there has been no official confirmation.

“It was a very tough operation,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

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“We made two teams. One team started firefighting because there was a blast of cylinders. We can say it was a chain of blasts of cylinders.

“We had to save ourselves also. We started rescue operations for babies as well. Unfortunately, we could not save all the children… That is a regrettable incident.”

The owner of the baby hospital has fled, according to Delhi police.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called the fire “heartbreaking”, adding that the “causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared”.

Machines move the debris following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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Machines move debris after a fire in Rajkot. Pic: Reuters

Earlier on Saturday, at least 27 people were killed in a fire at a crowded amusement park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India.

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