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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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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.

Young men across Dakar are working to earn money in case a similar route to the US 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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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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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

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Four girls stabbed at cinema in Massachusetts

Four girls aged between nine and 17 were stabbed in an “unprovoked” attack at a cinema in Massachusetts, US police have said.

A 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found stabbed in a McDonald’s restaurant in an incident that may be connected, according to officers.

A man, whose identity has not been released, was taken into custody following a vehicle chase that ended in a crash in Sandwich, Cape Cod.

Police said a man came into the AMC Braintree 10 complex, south of Boston, at about 6pm local time on Saturday and entered one of the movie theatres without paying.

“Without saying anything and without any warning, he suddenly attacked the four young females,” the Braintree police department said in a statement.

“The attack appeared to be unprovoked. After the attack, the man ran out and left in a vehicle.”

The girls sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospitals in Boston for treatment.

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The suspect’s vehicle – what appeared to be a black SUV – and number plate was seen on camera, police said.

A vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle was later seen in Plymouth, about 27 miles south of Braintree.

Police said it had left a McDonald’s restaurant, where a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were found stabbed and both were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Police found the vehicle another 20 miles south, in Sandwich, and attempted to pull it over, but it didn’t stop and later crashed.

The driver was taken into custody shortly afterward and was being treated at a hospital.

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

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Passengers and crew injured after turbulence on Qatar Airways flight to Dublin

Eight people have been taken to hospital due to turbulence on a flight to Dublin.

Dublin Airport said six passengers and six crew members on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were hurt after experiencing turbulence over Turkey.

In a later statement, the airport said all passengers were assessed for injury before getting off the plane and eight were taken to hospital.

Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, told Sky News the aircraft was met by emergency services upon landing shortly before 1pm on Sunday.

The scene at Dublin Airport

Qatar Airways described the injuries sustained by passengers and crew as “minor”.

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention… The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation into what happened has now been launched.

Read more:
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Climate change causing more turbulence – scientists

Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a British man died on a Singapore Airlines flight after extreme turbulence on a Heathrow-Singapore journey.

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Singapore Airlines passenger Josh Silverstone describes ordeal

Turbulence is defined as a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

It can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them, Sky News weather producer Jo Robinson said.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

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This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Qatar Airways flight went through.

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts

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Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide - as 'major destruction' hampers rescue efforts

More than 2,000 people have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster agency has said.

The landslide levelled the mountainous Kaokalam village in Enga Province – about 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

It hit the Pacific nation at around 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier said it estimated 670 people had been killed. Local officials had initially put the number of dead at 100 or more.

People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP
Image:
People search through a landslide in Yambali village. Pic: Kafuri Yaro/UNDP Papua New Guinea via AP

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre said the landslide had buried more than 2,000 people.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” an official from the national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations.

Earlier, Serhan Aktoprak, head of the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, said the figure of 670 deaths was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 homes had been buried. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he said.

More than 4,000 people were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian group CARE Australia said earlier.

It said the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters
Image:
Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

About six villages were affected by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three bodies were pulled from an area where 50 to 60 homes were destroyed. Six people, including a child, were pulled from the rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said.

But hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

Pic: AP
Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)
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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through the landslide. Pic: AP

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP
Image:
Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200 sq km (77 sq miles), cutting off road access, which was making relief efforts difficult. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

Survivors searched through tonnes of earth and rubble by hand looking for missing relatives while a first emergency convoy delivered food, water and other provisions on Saturday.

However, Mr Aktoprak added: “Hopes to take the people out alive from the rubble have diminished now.”

In February, at least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

Mr Marape has said disaster officials, the defence force and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
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A damaged house after the landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
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Locals carry their belongings away from the scene of the landslide. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of around 10 million, is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activity occurs.

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In March, the country was hit by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The US and Australia are building closer defence ties with the strategically important nation, while China is also seeking closer security and economic ties.

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said their governments stood ready to help respond to the landslide.

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