Between 3000-4000 Portuguese-Venezuelans have abandoned the South American country in turmoil and returned to their roots – most of them in Madeira.
Regional secretary for parliamentary and European affairs Sérgio Marques has been talking to Lusa about the problem for which the Portuguese government has still to define a solution.
For the time being, it wants to believe that most of the countrymen and women who have returned, have done so temporarily.
Figures too are hazy, given that anyone returning on a Portuguese passport will have gone through controls without being ‘flagged’.
Marques adds that numbers flying in are expected to increase as the problems in Venezuela go from bad to worse.
Accompanying Secretary of State for the Communities José Luís Carneiro on a visit to Venezuela this week, Marques said: “We are trying, with some difficulty to ascertain the exact number of people who have come in to Madeira”.
Whatever the final tally, it cannot be viewed as a regional problem, he stressed – saying the government will have to support Madeira as it in turn attempts to support those who have sought refuge.
Said José Carneiro in Caracas: “The moment is very serious. Very, very serious – and the Portuguese here are conscious of the gravity of the moment”.
But, according to Carneiro, the majority of people returning to Madeira will be wanting to go back to Venezuela once the crisis has passed.
“I have seen Portuguese who were victims of assaults that destroyed their property and establishments, already starting again and reopening their doors”, he told Lusa.
“More than 90% of people show the desire to recover their businesses and invest in Venezuela” which he went on to describe as a “country with lots of investment opportunities and opportunities for the future”.
Whether Carneiro is proved right is the big question, while Madeiran authorities brace themselves for an extremely busy summer.