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  • Presidential candidate Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance (GANA) speaks during a news conference after the presidential election in San Salvador

    Presidential candidate Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance (GANA) speaks during a news conference after the presidential election in San Salvador | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 July 2019

"I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation. And right now, it's an obligation for a lot of people."

The President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele stated on Sunday that his country was to blame for the recent death of of a father and daughter who drowned while trying to reach the United States from Mexico.

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In a new interview with the BBC, President Bukele said that his government needs to fix the issues that are forcing people to migrate from El Salvador.

According to President Bukele, the father and daughter were fleeing El Salvador because of the current situation inside the country. "People don't flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to.”

"I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation. And right now, it's an obligation for a lot of people,” adding, "We can blame any other country but what about our blame? What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States? They fled El Salvador; they fled our country. It is our fault."

President Bukele condemned the treatment of migrants in the U.S. and Mexico, but reiterated that El Salvador had to "focus on making our country better, making our country a place where nobody has to migrate."

The new president, who took office a month ago, has vowed to make El Salvador a safer place so that Salvadoran citizens are not forced to migrant to other countries.

The bodies of Óscar Martínez and his daughter, who drowned in late June, have been returned home for burial.

A photograph of them lying face down in the water of the Rio Grande shocked the world and reignited the debate about illegal immigration and US President Donald Trump's hardline policies.

At least 283 migrants died on the US-Mexico border in 2018, according to US Border Patrol, but human rights activists say the number is likely to be higher.

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