Brazil, UNHCR Renewed the Venezuelan Refugee Cooperation Deal
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Brazil, UNHCR Renewed the Venezuelan Refugee Cooperation Deal

Image Attribute: Venezuelans being relocated to shelter in Boa Vista, Capital of Roraima State, Brazil / Source: UNHCR

Image Attribute: Venezuelans being relocated to shelter in Boa Vista, Capital of Roraima State, Brazil / Source: UNHCR

On December 28, 2018, Brazil’s Social Development Ministry (MINISTÉRIO DO Desenvolvimento Social - MDS) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) renewed the cooperation deal (extending it to one more year) ensuring the social and assistance rights of Venezuelan immigrants to housing and employment. The agreement has been effect since August 2018.

UNHCR has been working closely with the Brazilian Federal Government to register Venezuelans and ensure all arrivals have proper documentation. Once documented, Venezuelan asylum-seekers, as well as those with special stay permits, have the right to work, and access health, education, and other basic services.

UNHCR is managing the new shelters, and its staff is doing biometric registration and issuing identification cards for food and aid distributions there. At the same time, the Federal authorities through the Brazilian army are providing three warm meals a day as well as physical security. The municipal government is conducting vaccinations on site.

Speaking to IndraStra Global, UNHCR's Public Information Officer Luiz Fernando Godinho Santos said, "UNHCR's cooperation with the Brazilian MDS is a technical one, through which it is able to support the reception, sheltering and referral of Venezuelans asylum seekers arriving in Brazil and later being relocated to other parts of Brazil via the "Interiorization / Relocation" initiative". While correcting our previous quote* on the disbursement of allowances, he said - "The monthly allowance of $103/refugee which you had mentioned (earlier), is directly transferred by the MDS to those municipalities which are receiving Venezuelans families and/or single individuals into their public shelters. Do note, these funds do not go directly to the Venezuelans, but to the municipal authorities responsible for social assistance and sheltering".

The Ceremony

At the signing ceremony, the book Pátria Mãe Gentil (“Kind motherland”) was launched, with photographs showing the immigrants who were resettled as part of Brazil’s relocation initiative. The photos were taken by photographers from the ministry, UNHCR, the Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC), and the president’s office.

Social Development Minister Alberto Beltrame said that Jail Bolsonaro’s administration will continue the efforts initiated by his predecessor. President Michel Temer, he said, did the right thing by not giving in to the pressure of those who argued for shutting national borders between Brazil and Venezuela.

“I believe Brazil provides the world with a role model when it comes to solidarity, humanity, fraternity—[concepts] so often found in addresses from leaders, organizations, and individuals, where actually this is not really the case. We, [on the other hand], bring these crucial concepts of humanity into practice by welcoming people who have today a new hope in Brazil, a new possibility of life, the renewal of dreams,” Beltrame argued.

Everything done under Operação Acolhida “Operation Shelter,” as the resettlement program for Venezuelans in Brazil is called—confirms how much Brazil is bent on becoming “‘a kind motherland,’ as the national anthem says,” Beltrame went on to say.

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According to the Brazilian Federal Government’s estimates (April 2018), more than 800 Venezuelans are entering Brazil each day. As the complex political and socio-economic situation in their country continues to worsen, arriving Venezuelans are in more desperate need of food, shelter and health care. Many also need international protection. More than 52,000 Venezuelans have arrived in Brazil since the beginning of 2017. Of the 52,000 Venezuelans living in Brazil, 25,000 are asylum seekers, 10,000 hold temporary resident visas, while the rest are working to regularizing their status. An estimated 40,000 have entered through the isolated northern state of Roraima and are living in Boa Vista, the state capital. Thus far, 3,602 Venezuelans are reported to have been sheltered under the initiative, and to live across 31 municipalities in 14 of Brazil’s 27 states.

UNHCR representative in Brazil Federico Martínez added that 5 thousand Venezuelans leave their country in search of better living conditions every day. “At the UN, 3 million are estimated to have left Venezuela, and nearly 200 thousand to have entered Brazil since 2017—approximately 98 thousand of them staying in the country, most applying for refugee status.”

Martínez suggested that program managers should revamp the initiative in 2018, trying to focus on providing Brazilian states with more balance, especially when it comes to the tasks linked to the assistance offered to Venezuelans. “The idea is to distribute this responsibility in a more humanitarian way, with other states and cities being given a chance to join in,” he argued.

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With reporting by Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC)

*CORRECTION: Earlier on December 31, 2018, we have quoted in the first paragraph of this article that "the pact includes a monthly $103 allowance for each refugee sheltered by city authorities". The statement was later corrected (and elaborated) today (January 3, 2019) in the fourth paragraph with the inputs given by Mr. Luiz Fernando Godinho Santos, Public Information Officer, UNHCR Brasilia. We are thankful to him for the timely advice and suggestions.