In a mission to Roraima, CNDH rights council hears migrants and asylum seekers

The council also met with authorities from the government’s Operation Welcome program

Represamento de pessoas que chegam diariamente ao Brasil, tanto na triagem, quanto na demora no processo de interiorização, chama atenção de integrantes da missão em RR .Foto: Marizilda Cruppe/Conectas Represamento de pessoas que chegam diariamente ao Brasil, tanto na triagem, quanto na demora no processo de interiorização, chama atenção de integrantes da missão em RR .Foto: Marizilda Cruppe/Conectas

The CNDH (National Human Rights Council) staged a mission to the municipalities of Boa Vista and Pacaraima, in the state of Roraima, from November 7-10, to investigate reports of human rights violations resulting from the deterioration of the migration crisis in the region. 

The mission was formed by the following members of the CNDH: Yuri Costa, president; Virgínia Berriel, member; Joselito Sousa, member; and Camila Asano, ad hoc consultant and also program director at Conectas. Also participating were Gabriel Travassos, of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, and Raissa Belintani, coordinator of the Strengthening Democratic Space program at Conectas.

“In addition to visiting the different places that house migrants, we visited the border region and the sites that first receive the migrants, conduct the triage and provide shelter. We also listened to the different actors involved in Operação Acolhida [Operation Welcome, the federal government’s migrant program], such as the people in charge of the program, UN agencies, the Federal Public Defender’s Office and the Federal Police,” said the president of CNDH.

Costa explained that the aim of the mission was to get a sense of the inflows, the problems and challenges of the migration, by listening – as could only be the case – to immigrants and refugees either in the shelters or living on the streets.

“The mission had the benefit of getting closer to the authorities and also to the people directly affected. Furthermore, we inspected the border region, visiting Pacaraima, a town that clearly does not have the structure to receive so many people, in addition to Boa Vista,” he said.

The mission’s participants identified a number of challenges in these places. In particular, the stalling of people who come to Brazil every day, whether through triage or through delays in the relocation process. “The institutions involved are very concerned with identifying the bottlenecks to enable the flow of people. There are many families, individuals and even unaccompanied children and adolescents, so there is a very broad range of situations,” noted Costa.

Another worrisome aspect concerns the system of shelters in Boa Vista, since Operation Welcome plans to introduce a new guideline increasing the number of people who can be accommodated in a single shelter, to 1500 people.

“We need to look very carefully at this guideline to make sure that the expanded shelter system will not cause human rights violations. There are currently at least four shelters for indigenous people, which will be merged into two. Their resistance was quite visible, and they said they were not consulted in advance. In both places – Boa Vista and Pacaraima – we are very concerned about the number of families living on the streets”.

The Council member Virgínia Berriel explained that the participants visited several shelters in Boa Vista and then went to Pacaraima – the entry point for all migrants coming from Venezuela. “The situation in the town is very delicate, with many people living on the streets. Although all the efforts made by the Army and civil society institutions such as UNHCR and UNICEF are well organized and well run, an average of 2,000 people are arriving every day in Brazil,” she said.

“One thing we found very glaring was that many people prefer to stay on the streets because families are separated in shelters. The people on the streets of Pacaraima are facing a situation of extreme vulnerability and abandonment. And it’s not just adults, there are children with their families and it’s all very sad,” she said.

The mission took place after the Council received a series of complaints about the extreme vulnerability of the people arriving in Pacaraima. The complaints included concerns about the elderly and children; the time it takes to register entry into the country and access the social services offered by the Operation Welcome program; delays in the Federal Police’s asylum application system; difficulty finding employment; and xenophobia.

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