September 3, 2018 / 8:32 PM / 2 months ago

Venezuela says migration flows are 'normal'

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s government on Monday said migratory patterns out of the OPEC nation are “normal” and that the situation was being exaggerated to justify an intervention by foreign powers.

A banner with the image of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is seen during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

The United Nation’s migration agency last month said the exodus of citizens out of Venezuela, which is suffering a hyperflationary economic collapse, is nearing a “crisis moment” comparable to situation of refugees in the Mediterranean.

“There has been an intent to convert a normal migratory flow into a humanitarian crisis in order to justify an international intervention in Venezuela,” said Vice President Delcy Rodriguez at a press conference. “We will not allow it.”

She criticized foreign agencies for relying on figures of Venezuelan emigration provided by other countries but did not provide Venezuela’s own figures.

The Information Ministry did not respond to an email seeking additional information.

The U.N. migration and refugees organizations said in a joint statement in August that 2.3 million Venezuelans are currently living abroad and that more than 1.6 million have left since 2015.

Images of Venezuelans leaving the country on foot through Colombia to escape hyperinflation and food shortages have sent alarm bells through the region as countries such as Ecuador, Peru and Chile seek to prepare for the growing flow of migrants.

Venezuelan officials have described such scenes as having been staged by the media and political adversaries to tarnish the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The government last month announced it had repatriated 89 Venezuelans from Peru after they complained of being humiliated treatment.

Migration officials from countries around South America on Monday began a two-day meeting in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito to discuss regional strategies for managing the influx of migrants, with conclusions to be announced on Tuesday.

Colombia, Peru and Ecuador on Thursday asked for international aid to manage the migration surge that is overwhelming public services.

Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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