Federal court once again bans summary deportation of vulnerable migrants

Ruling states that border decrees “have led to illegalities being committed by the federal government”

Migrantes chegam em ponto de acolhimento na cidade de Boa Vista (RR). Foto: Operação Acolhida Migrantes chegam em ponto de acolhimento na cidade de Boa Vista (RR). Foto: Operação Acolhida

A federal court banned on Wednesday, July 28, the summary deportation or repatriation of vulnerable migrants who cross the border into the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas. The ruling also stops the Brazilian government from using law enforcement officers to raid and conduct patrols in places that shelter migrants. Finally, it also establishes a fine of R$500,000 to be paid by the federal government to social organizations for collective moral damages.

With the justification of containing the spread of Covid-19, the Brazilian government has published, since the start of the pandemic, dozens of interministerial decrees that restrict the entry of migrants into the country by land borders. These decrees allow, among other things, the immediate deportation of people, even though they are legally entitled to asylum. On June 24, a new decree backtracked and reinstated the possibility of receiving Venezuelan migrants, the group most affected by the federal measures. However, the decree sets limits by making the entry of these people conditional on “available resources” and it continues to use the pandemic as a justification for maintaining a policy that is discriminatory in practice. 

“I emphasize that there is no correlation whatsoever between the public health policy to combat and prevent the spread of SARS-COVID-19 and requests for asylum. It is incredible that those who conceived and had the courage to sign the Decree included this provision in it,” reads an excerpt of the ruling signed by Judge Luiz Felipe Bouzada Flores Viana, of the 2nd Civil Court of the Federal Justice System. The ruling was given in a public civil action filed by the Federal Public Defender’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. 

In another excerpt, the judge states that “these sanctions and the discriminatory treatment of migrants, particularly Venezuelans […] have led to illegalities being committed by the federal government, which takes from these provisions reasons to practice policies that are incompatible with the law and, more importantly, that contravene the founding principles of the Constitution of the Republic, the International Refugee Law, the International Human Rights Law, the Convention on the Status of Refugees and the Brazilian Migration Law, which could lead to the Brazilian State being held internationally accountably for severe human rights violations.”

According to Camila Asano, program director at Conectas, “this is yet another decision that recognizes the illegal and discriminatory nature of the federal decrees and that protects migrants and refugees and the humanitarian services for victims of abuse by the police force, which have become all too frequent”. Asano went on to say that, should the federal government appeal this ruling, it is important for the Federal Appeals Court of the 1st Region to be responsible for judging the appeal, to ensure the rights of migrants established in Brazilian law. 

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In August 2020, the federal courts in the state of Acre also banned the immediate deportation and repatriation of vulnerable migrants. And in March 2021, after the deportation of six Venezuelans and a police raid of a shelter in the state of Roraima, an injunction also guaranteed the right of these people to remain in Brazil. However, the Federal Appeals Court of the 1st Region temporarily accepted the request by the federal government to suspend these rulings, which are still waiting to be judged by a full session of the court. The government could also appeal the ruling this week.

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