First plane repatriating Venezuelan migrants in Mexico departs for Caracas, sources say

MEXICO CITY, Oct 25 (Reuters) - A first flight carrying Venezuelan migrants voluntarily returning to their homeland from Mexico departed on Tuesday, according to two Mexican officials.

Mexico is dealing with a major increase in the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country's economic woes, due both to people arriving on its southern border and thousands more being expelled from the United States under a plan unveiled this month aimed at curbing migrant flows.

The plane, operated by Venezuela's state airline, left Mexico City's Felipe Angeles International Airport destined for Caracas, the sources said. One of the officials said the flight was set to carry about 100 Venezuelans paying a reduced fare of just over $200.

The migrants on board the plane were in Mexico without proper documentation, according to the official.

A spokesperson for the airport said the flight departed at around 7.30 p.m. local time (0030 GMT), later than originally scheduled. It should arrive in Caracas in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to scheduling.

Under a bilateral plan announced on Oct. 12, Washington said it would grant up to 24,000 Venezuelans humanitarian access to the United States by air. It also enabled U.S. officials to expel to Mexico those caught trying to cross illegally by land.

Mexican officials have said more flights could follow the first. One source said another plane was scheduled to depart the same airport on Wednesday with some 300 Venezuelans on board.

Mexico's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the National Migration Institute (INM) said they had no information. The Venezuelan embassy in Mexico could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Biden administration has come under pressure to curb illegal immigration after a record number of border crossings this year, fueled in part by Venezuelans.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez and Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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