Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has issued a call to those who’ve fled their home country during a live TV address Thursday, reports the Independent.
“To all who want to return from economic slavery, persecution, and hate stop scrubbing toilets in other countries and come back home,” Maduro pleaded.
Migrants are leaving Venezuela at an alarming rate, with 1.6 million people leaving the tumultuous nation since 2015, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That year, falling oil prices helped create an environment where hyperinflation, poverty, and a lack of access to food and medical supplies became prevalent.
Monday, 89 citizens returned to Venezuela on a chartered flight from Peru, where they had settled in hopes of escaping poverty. Bloomberg reports, the state government says that the group had reached out to the embassy in Lima due to inhumane and xenophobic treatment in Peru.
“They longed to return to their homeland to receive the embraces of their friends, neighbors, companions, relatives, and the human warmth that we Venezuelans know how to share,” said Maduro.
According to government sources, thousands of Venezuelans have made clear their intent to return. Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez says that Venezuelan embassies have been swarmed by “thousands of requests for help” from those seeking to repatriate.
In a report from earlier this year, Stefano Pozzebon, a freelance journalist working for CNN, spoke of the difficulty Venezuelans encounter while trying to manage the tasks of basic living.
“As Venezuela has sunk to new depths, prices have skyrocketed, and the currency, the bolivar, has become next to worthless. Supermarkets and banks have become scenes of confusion and chaos: Are they open? Do they have money or food? How much can I get?”
The United Nations says the mass exodus is approaching a “crisis moment,” according to a report cited by the Independent. Thousands of refugees have traveled to other South American nations seeking respite from the relentless poverty and government turmoil at home. Most of those fleeing have crossed the 1,400-mile border to Colombia to seek work and aid there. In Peru, the situation is similar, with the Peruvian government claiming nearly half a million people have entered. Nearly 200,000 have obtained or are seeking permission to live and work legally there. Up to 800 Venezuelans per day seek entry at their border, says Brazil’s President Michel Temer.
“Our policy and that of international accords is to offer refuge, but the ideal for us is that they receive our humanitarian aid there and could stay there,” Temer said.