National Human Rights Council conducts mission to northern Brazil to check on situation of Venezuelan immigrants

From January 18 to 26, the CNDH (National Human Rights Council) will be on a mission to the northern states of Roraima, Pará and Amazonas to check on the human rights situation of Venezuelan immigrants who have come to Brazil seeking asylum and residency as a result of the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The program includes visits to the shelters where the immigrants are accommodated and meetings with civil society and international agencies that work with immigration and with local authorities responsible for handling the matter – such as the Federal Police and municipal and state government officials.

The mission will be formed by members of the CNDH, among them Conectas, and representatives of guest organizations. Its goal will be to check on the situation facing these immigrants in the cities of Manaus, Belém, Santarém, Boa Vista and Pacaraima in order to find solutions for the rights violations that are identified.

Rising immigration

Immigration has increased significantly over the past few months. According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), between 250 and 300 Venezuelan immigrants cross the border every day into Brazil. The Federal Police, meanwhile, said that by November 1 it had received 20,137 asylum applications – 15,643 in 2017 alone – and 2,740 applications for temporary residency. “In other words: by November 1 there were nearly 23,000 official immigration status applications. Since in immigration situations like this, the unofficial figures are much higher, we can only estimate the scale of the problem,” said João Akira Omoto, a representative of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office on the CNDH.

Omoto explained that the main entry point for Venezuelans crossing over into Brazil is the border town of Pacaraima, in the state of Roraima, and that asylum applications are being made by economic immigrants and indigenous immigrants.

“The indigenous asylum seekers are mostly Warao people from northern Venezuela who travel almost a thousand kilometers to the Brazilian border in extremely precarious conditions and arrive here in a state of malnutrition and with other diseases,” he said.

Institutional coordination

According to the president of the CNDH, Fabiana Severo, the situation requires joint action by the state, municipal and federal governments to properly accommodate these people and to defend and redress the rights that are being violated. “In addition to Roraima, where the situation has been occurring for longer, we are also aware of the presence of Venezuelan citizens in the states of Amazonas and Pará, especially indigenous people, in a situation of extreme vulnerability. It is necessary to work together to find solutions to meet this demand,” said Severo.

Camila Lissa Asano, the representative of Conectas on the CNDH who will also take part in the mission, emphasized the need for coordinated action to address the situation, pointing out that much has been reported about the arrival of Venezuelans in the state of Roraima, but that little is known about the immigration in other states, namely Pará and Amazonas. “This mission is important because we can observe the situation on the ground and the needs of this contingent of people, allowing us to better understand the context and propose to the public authorities appropriate policies to improve the reception and the integration of these people into Brazilian society from a standpoint of human rights and the new immigration law,” added Asano.

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