Argentina says mafia groups are spurring Russian birth tourism

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Argentine officials have blamed organized "mafias" for promoting birth tourism to the South American country by Russian mothers-to-be amid a boom in numbers traveling there since the invasion of Ukraine looking to get their children citizenship.

Thousands of expectant Russian mothers have arrived in Argentina over the last year, including 33 on a single flight last week, which threw a spotlight on the trend. Some were detained and officials launched a crackdown on the practice.

Florencia Carignano, head of Argentina's immigration office, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that "mafia organizations were profiting by offering packages to obtain our passport to people who do not actually want to reside in our country."

Russians can travel to Argentina without a visa, where all newborns are granted citizenship automatically, making it an attractive destination for so-called birth tourism.

"We detected a significant increase in the entry of Russian citizens in recent months. That is why we decided to investigate and we interviewed 350 of them who were in advanced pregnancy," Carignano said.

"In the interviews we discovered that this organization offers people, in exchange for a large sum of money, a birth tourism package with the Argentine passport as the main reason for the trip."

Carignano said that the immigration office had passed data related to the case to the country's judiciary with the aim of defending the integrity of Argentina's passport issuance.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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