NHRC recommends federal government should remove discriminatory border restrictions for refugees

In a recommendation made in refugee awareness month, the Commission has shown concern over a decree issued in May of this year that violates the human rights of migrants and refugees in Brazil

Venezuelans wait at the Federal Police station at the border town of Pacaraima, in the
state of Roraima. Venezuelans wait at the Federal Police station at the border town of Pacaraima, in the state of Roraima.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) published a recommendation on Friday 11, calling for federal government to change some points in Decree nº 654, of 28 May 2021 and to receive vulnerable migrants trying to cross Brazilian borders. The Decree stipulates entry restrictions to the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the document, the groups of people considered vulnerable include “pregnant women, children and adolescents separated from or accompanied by their parents or family members, elderly people, the disabled, indigenous people, traditional communities that have been affected, seriously ill people, people in urgent need of medical assistance and other vulnerable social groups.”

Requests for asylum and from people who are “vulnerable due to the migratory flow caused by humanitarian or serious crisis and generalised human rights violations” are also included.

NHRC recommendation number 19 also states that “since March 2020, federal government has issued 29 decrees imposing entry restrictions into the country, with devices that violate international norms and treaties and local laws on migration and asylum” and that “restrictions should not impede the provision of health services and social assistance.”

Citing WHO measures (World Health Organisation), the advisers indicate that triage, Covid-19 testing and quarantine are effective ways of containing the spread of the virus without infringing refugees´ rights. 

According to Camila Asano, Programme Director at Conectas and an NHRC advisor, the most serious aspect is the clear violation of the human rights of refugees from Venezuela.  “In online meetings held by the NHRC mission in progress in Pacaraima (Roraima) and Boa Vista (Roraima), we can already see evidence of the problematic points of the decree to close the borders, with the Federal Police having to find creative solutions in the face of humanitarian issues at the border.” 

Asano went on to say that Decree nº 654, signed by ministers in the Chief of Staff´s Office and in Justice and Public Security and Health, hinders the issuing of documents to refugees and accommodates summary deportations, with no regard for the correct legal processes, that are provided for in the migration act. 

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