Want to fly on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Bogota? Good luck…the flight is sold out most days. TK800, jokingly called the “Biden Express,” has become the choice flight for migrants to travel to the Americas and launch an overland journey to the US Southern Border.
Turkish Airlines Flight 800, The Biden Express From Istanbul To Bogota
The passengers on TK800 are quite diverse in terms of nationality, but share common traits: they tend to be young, they tend to be male, and they tend to be African. Think Morocco. Ghana. Senegal. Mauritania.
This never used to be a crowded flight. These days, tickets prices are through the roof and the flight routinely sells out:
Why? First, it is easy for most nationalities to transit through Istanbul without a visa. Second, Colombia generously issues transit visas to many travelers from developing nations. So the plan is straightforward: fly to Bogota via Istanbul and then connect to Nicaragua to begin the journey to the US Southern Border.
Why Nicaragua? Because Nicaragua, under Daniel Ortega, is happy to issue “tourist” visas for Africans, knowing full well what they will do with them.
The overland journey through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally Mexico is not easy. The borders are not wide open there either. But this route has proven the most effective at transporting Africans to the Americas in order to be closer to the USA.
Smugglers offer “all-inclusive” packages promising to help desperate Africans flee their nations and position them to get as close to the USA as possible. Often, vulnerable travelers spend their life savings only to receive fake documents and then face deportation from Istanbul after their transit visas are examined.
One traveler told the UK DailyMail:
“America is the country of freedom and human rights. What Joe Biden is doing is good. But if Donald Trump gets re-elected next year, it will become more difficult for migrants there. That guy is crazy.”
Hence the name “Biden Express.”
“Within three weeks or so, I’ll make it to the United States Inshallah!”
African travelers used to connect to El Salvador, but that suddenly became more expensive.
Maybe Turkey should also add an “airport improvement fee” for transit passengers…
I am proud to live in a country that people still are willing to give up everything to come to. I recognize that even when not being persecuted, the prospect of any social mobility can be nonexistent in so many developing nations.
But this “Biden Express” flight strikes me as ridiculous. I do not blame Turkey for it (it seems the blame lies with Nicaragua), but it seems both Turkey and Colombia are knowingly enabling illegal immigration to the USA onboard Tk800.
The inability of the US to protect its borders means that some will indeed find their way to the USA. My only hope is that once here, they display the same cleverness and ingenuity in contributing to the economy and the community in which they settle that they spend in reaching the USA…
(Hat Tip: Lukas)