March 19, 2020 / 12:11 AM / 11 days ago

El Salvador suspends deportations from U.S., Mexico over coronavirus

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador said on Wednesday it had suspended deportation flights of its nationals from the United States and Mexico until further notice in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, following a similar step by Guatemala a day earlier.

El Salvador’s migration authority said in a statement that the country’s borders were closed to travelers.

Deportations of illegal immigrants have formed part of U.S. pressure on Central American countries to shoulder the burden of stopping illegal immigration, which U.S. President Donald Trump has made a keystone of his re-election campaign.

The bulk of migrants caught trying to enter the United States illegally come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

No deportations of Hondurans from the United States to Honduras have occurred this week because airports were closed to international traffic, said Edgardo Maradiaga, director general of airport operator Aeropuertos de Honduras.

Honduras on Tuesday decided to close its borders and impose a curfew to stop the spread of coronavirus. The Honduran government has yet to stipulate specifically that deportation flights have been suspended.

Qiana Smith, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in El Salvador, said on Wednesday that Washington was continuing to repatriate people caught trying to enter the United States illegally.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; editing by Dave Graham and Grant McCool

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