The president of El Salvador has told Sky News his country is to blame for migrants making the dangerous journey to the US in search of a better life.

Nayib Bukele – in his first broadcast interview since being elected – was speaking after a Salvadorian migrant and his young daughter made headlines around the world when they were pictured drowned as they tried to reach America.

He said: "It's our fault – they felt that fleeing the country, crossing three borders, a desert, a river [where] they finally drowned – they felt that was safer than staying here… Why would people take those risks?"

Image: Mr Ramirez and his daughter Valeria were found drowned after trying to cross into the US

The photo showed Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria side-by-side in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande on the Mexican side of the US border.

On Tuesday, authorities were also searching for a two-year-old girl after a woman from Haiti said she had lost her daughter while crossing the river.


Border agents say they are rescuing people from the water nearly every day.

Around a third of the people in El Salvador – a small but densely populated central American country – live in poverty. There is also a big problem with violent gangs drawing in young people who cannot find jobs.

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President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele.
Full interview: El Salvador's President Bukele

Thousands of Salvadorians are among those making the perilous trip north to try to enter the US.

But President Bukele, 37, rejected Donald Trump's suggestion that his plan for a wall would have saved Oscar Ramirez and his daughter.

He told Sky News that constructing a barrier on the Mexico-US border would be futile.

"If they build a wall migrants will build a tunnel, they will go through the sea, or they will go to the sides of the wall, a wall would never stop anything," he said.

"Probably, a wall would cause more deaths."

Parts of the border already have a wall, such as here dividing Tijuana and San Diego County
Image: President Bukele says a wall along the US-Mexico border could cause more deaths

Pictures of detention centres packed with migrants held after trying to illegally enter America have also caused concern, with claims that the overcrowding means some cannot even use the toilet.

A US watchdog described "dangerous overcrowding" at the Rio Grande facilities, with one manager calling it a "ticking time bomb".

"We have to come up with solutions fast because this can become a humanitarian crisis – it is a humanitarian crisis – but it can become something worse," said Mr Bukele

El Salvador was one of the countries reportedly described as a "s***hole" by President Trump during a meeting in January 2018 – and President Bukele admitted his country has a huge task in improving infrastructure and living standards for its 6.4 million people.

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