CARACAS: The government of President Nicolas Maduro repatriated more than 700 Venezuelans who fled to nearby Trinidad and Tobago during a severe economic crisis in their homeland, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
“More than 700 Venezuelans arrived in Venezuela from Trinidad and Tobago as part of the first Vuelta a la Patria (Homecoming) plan carried out by sea,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreasa also shared a video, filmed by one of the returnees, in which his comrades sing and clap their hands.
Maduro launched the Homecoming Plan in August 2018 to facilitate the voluntary return, initially by land and air, of Venezuelans who escaped a crisis that the government blames on US sanctions.
To curb the exodus to Trinidad and Tobago, the island nation of 1.3 million, located off the coast of the troubled South American country, has previously resorted to deporting migrants.
In November 2020, they deported 160 Venezuelans on charges of “illegal” entry into the country, days after a scandalous repatriation by sea involving 16 minors.
Between 2018 and 2020, more than 100 Venezuelans died in shipwrecks while trying to reach Trinidad and Tobago. The dangerous crossing, which takes about three hours, is usually done in unstable boats.
With some of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela is facing one of the worst crises in its history with severe financial and resource constraints.
More than five million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, according to United Nations estimates, of which about 25,000 have fled to Trinidad and Tobago.
Venezuela now has about 28 million people. – AFP