Chinese migrants
Chinese migrants in the jungle Reuters

The U.S. conducted its first large deportation flight of Chinese nationals since 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. The department added that it's working with authorities in Beijing to carry out more such flights as the amount of citizens who attempt to enter the country unlawfully has increased significantly over the past years.

"We will continue to enforce our immigration laws and remove individuals without a legal basis to remain in the United States. People should not believe the lies of smugglers," said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement.

China had long resisted receiving deportation flights, but the Biden administration for months engaged in high-level discussions aimed at bridging gaps to make it happen. According to the Associated Press, there were 116 nationals in the mentioned flight.

NBC News reported that, as migration to the U.S. from all corners of the world expands exponentially, Chinese smugglers advertise their services on social media, including TikTok, WhatsApp and the country's widely popular WeChat.

In 2023, U.S. authorities arrested more than 37,000 Chinese national at the southern border, more than 10 times than the previous year. In December alone, the figure almost reached 6,000. Most come from regions experiencing higher levels of political repression, with Hong Kong and Xinjiang featuring in the list, as well as Aksy and Altay.

The increase in migration from China has been such that Ecuador recently announced it will suspend a visa waiver agreement with the country following a surge of arrivals that authorities say then go on to migrate irregularly. Ecuador is one of two countries in South America that didn't require a visa for Chinese nationals, the other one being Suriname.

The country's Foreign Ministry called the trend "worrying" and said it noticed that about half of all arrivals from Chinese nationals to the country then didn't leave "through regular routes" within the 90 days they are allowed to stay under the agreement. The agreement had come into effect in 2016.

According to the U.S. Niskanen Center, Ecuadorian authorities recorded 48,381 arrivals in 2023, but records only show 24,240 departures that year. The disparity was the largest of all nationalities recorded.

The majority of Chinese entrants to Ecuador are male and under 40 years old. This composition aligns with China's gender imbalance due to the one-child policy, where surplus men may seek opportunities abroad. Most migrants also belong to the middle or high-skilled professional category, indicating a certain economic capability and resourcefulness required for such journeys.

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