The Nicaraguan “Trampoline”: Best Bet for US Bound Migrants

Africans, Cubans, and Haitians are using this route to reach the US border

Cuban migrants in Nicaragua. Photo: adncuba

“La Prensa” has confirmed that the migrants who arrive in Nicaragua already have their route set up, often with people to transport them and help them cross into Honduras over official or unmarked routes, plus proprietors of small hotels where they can stay before continuing their journey.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua has witnessed a wave of migrants from Cuba and Haiti, as well as from African nations, who use the country as a trampoline in their journey north. Their trip will take them through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, before reaching the U.S. border. The reality of these massive arrivals is tangible in the capital, especially when flights from Cuba, the island of Providencia, Aruba, Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic arrive at the Augusto C. Sandino airport in Managua. There are also reports of African migrants who use the route Madrid – San Salvador – Managua to jump-start their trip north.

According to a tour through Managua realized by La Prensa staff, the migrants have already connected with a network of people: those who will transport them; local people who will help them cross into Honduras using unmarked border crossings, if necessary; and owners of small hotels where they can rest before continuing their journey.

Reporters were able to confirm that the route of the African, Haitian, and Cuban migrants begins with their arrival at Managua’s Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. There they are received by “guides” – people they contacted previously to oversee their journey to the Honduran border. There are also taxi drivers who offer to transport them there directly.

On one typical day, La Prensa staff observed the arrival of three flights at the Managua airport: from Port-au-Prince, Puerto Rico and the island of Providencia respectively.  Over 100 non-Nicaraguans entered the country, most, apparently, of African or Haitian origin judging by the languages overheard.

The Central Bank of Nicaragua’s collects and publishes data on Passenger Transport. According to a detailed report elaborated by La Prensa, their statistics indicate that in the first semester of 2023, a total of 316,500 people entered Nicaragua by air; however, only 265,700 people left that way.

There’s no public information on the destination of the remaining 50,800 people, who arrived by air but didn’t leave by plane. However, the evidence indicates that those who didn’t leave by air “aren’t returning locals, or foreigners who decided to remain in Nicaragua, but migrants who subsequently continued their overland trek towards the United States,” affirms the La Prensa report.  These migrants arrive in Managua by air, then leave for Honduras over different routes.

Migrants arrive in Managua through the airport and from there depart through different routes to cross into Honduras.

The data coincides with that of the International Organization for Migration, which affirmed that from January to July of this year, 19,412 African citizens entered Honduras through the southern border it shares with Nicaragua. Also crossing overland from Nicaragua into Honduras were 17,157 Cubans.

Taxi drivers offer express trips for $50 dollars

The majority of the migrants who wish to pass speedily through Nicaragua but didn’t set up previous transportation arrangements go to the Puma gas station – a little over half a mile from the airport – to find direct transportation to the northern border.

In that gas station, over a dozen taxis await them. They have Managua license plates and are awaiting groups of migrants, who they offer “safe” and “direct” transportation to any of the Nicaragua-Honduras border crossing stations.

The team from La Prensa asked the taxi drivers how much they were charging the migrants and they concurred that “the price of the trip is 50 dollars a head, be it child or adult.”

The drivers explained that they prefer a group of four for the trip, in order not to exceed the number of passengers allowed per vehicle. However, they won’t refuse a fifth, if it’s a child that a member of the group can carry on their lap.

The drivers added that, in these cases, they warn their clients that in addition to paying the 50 dollars for the child, they must “add in whatever bribe they may have to pay the Transit Police, since, they’ll be asked for one if they’re stopped for taking too many passengers.”

On average, the taxi drivers told La Prensa, a trip from Managua to any of the border stations between Nicaragua and Honduras can take from four to six hours, depending on how many stops they make to eat or use the bathroom.

The only stops these taxis make for food are at gas stations, the drivers said, in order to avoid any fear or confusion for the passengers, given that in many cases they can’t communicate well due to the language barrier.

The taxi drivers also offer contacts who can help the migrants cross the into Honduras illegally, via unmarked border crossings. Some of these “coyotes” who guide migrants over routes near border stations as El Guasaule and Las Manos may charge between 20 and 30 dollars per person, stated the taxi drivers.

As far as places to sleep, for US $10 – $30 a night the migrants can find places on the Nicaraguan side of the border offering large rooms for groups to rest in.

Migrants in the Madrid airport, waiting to board a plane to Nicaragua. Courtesy photo

Family remittances

Other people who work guiding the migrants in their transit through Nicaragua to the Honduran border confirmed in an interview with La Prensa that the migrant groups not only use transportation, lodging, and food services, but also sometimes receive money in Nicaragua sent by family members already in the United States.

Sometimes, they explained, migrants receive up to US $1,000 in their names via Western Union. Other times, they pay Nicaraguans from US $30 – 50 dollars to lend them their personal information, so the Nicaraguans can receive the money, which they then hand to them.

Buses offer a more economic option

In addition, the reporters were able to verify that other groups of migrants, with a smaller budget, choose to travel to the border between Nicaragua and Honduras on the public express buses. After arriving at the airport, these migrants go to Managua’s Mayoreo bus terminal, where buses leave for the northern municipalities of Nicaragua.

In the terminal located in this market, there are groups of non-Nicaraguans waiting for the buses headed to Jalapa, Somoto and Ocotal.

The price of this trip to the northern towns, located just a few miles from the Honduran border, ranges from the local currency equivalent of US $3 – $6 dollars. However, the bus trip can take from six to eight hours, informed some of the assistants who work with the cooperatives of buses that travel to the north of Nicaragua.

Nicaragua the trampoline to the USA

The International Organization for Migration this week reported: “the most significant tendency of the migrants coming from Cuba and the African nations is that “they’re ever more frequently choosing air routes to Central America,” with the aim of traveling to the US border but avoiding the dangers of crossing through the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama.

The Cubans can enter Nicaragua without a visa. In the case of those from the African nations, the Ortega regime has no posted information about their visa requirements, but according to information circulating on the internet, they don’t need a visa to enter Nicaragua either.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times