LIMA, Peru – Nearly 100 migrants on Monday, August 27, took up an offer by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to fly them home from Lima, citing xenophobia against Venezuelans and difficulties in getting work.
The move is part of the socialist government's "Return to the Homeland" scheme to counter a mass exodus and woo back young Venezuelans to work in the crisis-torn country.
Ninety-seven migrants – including 22 children and 4 pregnant women – boarded a flight laid on by the state-run airline Conviasa for the 5-hour flight back to Caracas.
Forty-two year old Miguel Materano said was making the trip he could otherwise not afford, to escape "a bad situation here and xenophobia" towards Venezuelan migrants.
"I'm going to look for a job. The government has promised that it will help us," Materano told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Katiuska Anselmo said she could not find anyone to take care of her children as she sought work in Peru. Another returnee, Yusmari Arrais, said she was going back because she could not find a job while pregnant.
The group were put up in a hotel near the Venezuelan embassy in Lima on Sunday, August 26, where they received food and medical care, a Venezuelan official told reporters at the airport.
The flight comes as tens of thousands of migrants stream into Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil from the opposite direction, part of what officials say is one of the biggest population movements in recent South American history, driven by economic mismanagement and repression in once wealthy Venezuela.
Of the 2.3 million Venezuelans living abroad, more than 1.6 million have fled the country since the crisis began in 2015, according to UN figures.
The pace of departures has accelerated in recent days.
According to the UN, as many as 4,000 people have been arriving daily in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil.
But the massive exodus has overwhelmed Venezuela's neighbors, with outbreaks of xenophobia in Peru and Brazil where locals see basic services such as health and jobs being under threat from migrants.
"I don't have the slightest doubt that this flight..is part of a political plan by led by Nicolas Maduro himself that seeks only to discredit the Venezuelan diaspora in Peru," Oscar Perez, who heads a group of Venezuelans in Lima, told AFP.
Perez said the Venezuelan government will use the group for propaganda purposes.
"We are going to see them all over the radio and television in the coming days, with Nicolas Maduro saying that in Peru they were treated badly." – Rappler.com