Written by: Angélica Trapp
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
and natural disasters are the many reason the global migrant traffic collapsed in 2017.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), “65.6 million people were forcibly
displaced worldwide at the end of 2016”, the highest number recorded in decades. The intake of
refugees by European countries and Trump’s approach towards this crisis have widely been
reported by the press, but what role does the world’s fifth largest country - by landmass and
population - play?
Brazil is part of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Protocol of 1967, and has promulgated the
Refugee Statute (Law nº 9.474, July 22, 1997) that led to the creation of CONARE (Comitê
Nacional para os Refugiados), a Brazilian agency that regulates refugee matters. According to
CONARE, Brazil currently hosts more than 9.000 refugees from 79 different countries. Last year
Syrians accounted for the majority of refugees granted asylum, followed by the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Palestine, and Angola. As a matter of fact, Brazil grants asylum to
more refugees than any other country in Latin American.
In Brazil, migratory movement is not only from Africa and the Middle East. The earthquake that
shook Haiti in 2010 drove many Haitians to seek shelter in Brazil as well. Currently, there are
eighty-five thousand Haitians living in Brazil. The Brazilian Army has provided humanitarian
relief in Haiti for many years in response to the 2010 earthquake which ended up building a
friendly bond between the two countries. Consequently, Haitians perceived Brazil as a
welcoming place for a restart. The northwestern Brazilian state of Acre has received, since
2010, forty-three thousand illegal cross-border Haitians immigrants, all looking for new life
opportunities. Under these circumstances, the Brazilian government took diplomatic
measurements, making humanitarian visa process easier. Seven years after the earthquake,
Haitians now enter Brazil by legal means, dropping the illegality by 96%.
Brazilian Soldier in Haiti
Political instability and socioeconomic crisis in Venezuela also drives people to seek refuge in
Brazil. Looking for asylum, supplies, or temporary work, refugee application skyrocketed last
year, from 829 in 2015 to 3.375 in 2016 according to UNHCR. In 2017, a temporary residency
concession to bordering countries was voted and approved by the federal government,
providing hope for the population escaping Maduro’s regime.
Calling Brazil home is not easy for refugees. While some thrive and are able to rebuild their life,
some abandon the dream due to the country’s social and economic problems. With the
unemployment rate at 12%, the Brazilian President, Michel Temer, stopped negotiations with
Europe to accept more refugees. Before her impeached, President Dilma Rousseff started
negotiations with the objective of bringing a hundred thousand Syrian refugees to Brazil over the
course of five years.
The global migrant crisis is devastating, yet we are responsible for how it shapes the future. We
have the responsibility to help the population in need and, as a Brazilian, I am proud that
Brazil’s government has opened its arms for the cause, but it still a drop in the bucket in
comparison to other nations. Brazil is huge, the people are welcoming, the opportunities are
latent, and this mix may hold a gold pot at the end of the rainbow.