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Jalapa, Nicaragua. 10-May-2022. Migrants mostly from Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti. LA PRENSA

In 2023, the passage of migrants through Nicaragua generated US$53 million for the regime

Despite actions taken by the US trying to stop the influx of migrants through Nicaragua, the activity generated millions to the regime.

In November 2023, the United States halted, through the imposition of sanctions, the transit of migrants using the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua as a springboard to shorten their journey to the United States. However, this did not prevent the air bridge established by Daniel Ortega since the end of 2021 from generating millions in revenue last year. According to an official report, in 2023, charges associated with the transit of individuals generated C$1,905 million (approximately 53 million dollars at the official exchange rate), an amount that exceeded 2022 revenues by 62 percent.

The nearly US$53 million generated last year from the passage of foreigners through the country surpassed by US$20.5 million generated by the same activity in 2022. Last year´s amount is the highest in the history of these revenues and represents an increase of 561 percent compared to the revenue that the regime obtained through this activity in 2018.

According to the report on the Settlement of the General Budget of the Republic for 2023, published this week by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (MHCP), the 53 million dollars in revenue associated with the transit of people were obtained through four charges, the main one, by far being “other fees”:

Collections that generated the revenue

The four types of charges that generated these resources are:

  1. Migration card: Last year, it produced US$ 2.44 million. According to Law 495, the General Tourism Law and its amendments, citizens of countries with which Nicaragua has not signed visa waiver agreements are required to pay $10 or its equivalent in the national currency to enter the country.
  2. Terminal usage fee: This charge allowed for the collection of US$1.2 million, a lower amount compared to the one obtained in 2022. The decrease reflects the decline in the arrival of charter flights with migrants recorded in the last months of 2023, after the United States announced that it would restrict visas for those involved in these flights transporting migrants. The Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN) reported that only in October, 126,200 people entered the country by air.

This charge is collected through airlines, which include it in the ticket price. The last time this fee was updated was on February 25, 2016, when it was increased by $5. Since that date, all passengers entering and leaving through the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua have been paying $44.23 for this service.

Does it include fines for irregular migrants?

  1. Other Fees for Migration and Foreigner Services: This segment traditionally generates almost all of the revenue. Last year, it contributed 46 million dollars, which is 86 percent of the total. Law 1033 includes within this group a series of charges for migration services that are exclusive to foreigners. Among them, the border visa costs $50, and the transit visa is valued at $25. Both are directed at migrants who use national territory solely to advance northwards, with the goal of reaching the United States.

    4. Immigration Clearance: It generated 3 million dollars, and according to Law 1033, Amendment and Addition Law to Law 761, General Law of Migration and Foreigners, all non-resident foreigners entering or leaving the country must pay $3 for immigration clearance. The only exemptions are nationals of the CA-4, namely citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This tax is also paid by means of transportation; foreign-flagged aircraft and vessels pay $60 for entry and $60 for departure from the country.

Fines of up to $200 for migrants

However, since Daniel Ortega began promoting the use of the Managua airport as a bridge for tens of thousands of migrants to shorten their irregular transit to the United States, travelers have reported being charged a fine of between $150 and $200 to allow them to cross the territory. The charge is not only for those arriving in Managua by plane and then continuing by land northwards with the intention of reaching the United States.

This “business” started in November 2021 when Ortega announced the suspension of the visa requirement for Cubans and was consolidated with the establishment of air routes by Venezuelan airlines Conviasa and Aruba Airlines. Cubans were joined by Haitians, then South Americans, and finally Africans and Asians who began arriving on direct charter flights from Europe. Most of these flights were suspended when the United States imposed visa restrictions on those involved in these flights, but Venezuelan airlines and others with established routes in Nicaragua continue to promote the transfer of these individuals.

The fine is not only for individuals arriving by air but also for the thousands of migrants, mostly Venezuelans and South Americans but also Caribbeans and even from other continents, who cross the Panamanian jungle known as the Darien Gap and pass through Nicaragua as they travel by land through Central America and Mexico until reaching the United States southern border.

Only 13 irregular migrants

The BCN reported that during 2023, 878,900 people entered Nicaragua, but only 572,600 left through that route; this implies that 306,300 departed by land to continue their journey northward. Evidence that many of these individuals did not stay in the country is that last year, the Directorate General of Migration and Foreigners (DGME) did not meet its revenue target through charges for stay extensions.

According to information published by the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (Intur), all foreigners wishing to extend their stay in Nicaragua must fill out an application at any of the 28 Immigration Services Offices (Sertrami) throughout the country and pay $25 for the procedure. Last year, the Nicaraguan Immigration Service (DGME) projected to collect about 1.1 million dollars through these procedures. However, the Budget Settlement report details that only 737 thousand dollars were collected, meaning they only achieved 67 percent of the target.

Another noteworthy data point from the budget settlement report is regarding irregular migrants. While the National Institute of Migration of Honduras (INM) reported that last year nearly 90,000 irregular migrants, mostly Africans and Asians, entered their territory from Nicaragua; the Finance Ministry’s report states that in 2023, migration authorities only detected 13 irregular migrants and detained them at the National Shelter Center.

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