Northern Brazil under State of Emergency over Mass Immigration of Venezuelans
The state of Roraima, located on the border with Venezuela, raised the alarm on the increasing inflow of migrants, many of which lack the resources to support themselves.
Governor Suely Campos signed a decree, describing the mass migration of Venezuelans as “intense”: over the past two years, Roraima has received at least 30,000 immigrants.
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In keeping with the measure, the regional government’s institutions will seek to offer various services to the exiles who have decided to seek refuge in Brazil from the serious crisis in Venezuela.
The mass exodus of Venezuelans “has created serious difficulties for the teams in charge of providing logistical support (reception and shelter) at the border,” states the decree, and mentions health and safety concerns for both immigrants and Brazilians.
Campos recalled that Roraima received a third epidemiological alert last week from the Pan American Health Organization about the possibility that, as a result of migration, the region might experience a measles outbreak similar to the one that has affected the Venezuelan state of Bolívar for the last six months, where 38 cases of the disease have been confirmed.
In Brazil, Venezuelans have been precariously accommodated in shelters and refugee centers that have opened in cities such as Paracaima and Boa Vista. The first of these to open is located in the border city of Paracaima and can accommodate 150 people —there are currently about 500 Venezuelans there.
In October 2016, the government of Roraima decided to create an “emergency cabinet” to deal with the thousands of displaced Venezuelans.
According to Brazil’s National Committee of Refugees, the number of Venezuelans who have requested refuge in Brazil has doubled, and Venezuela has climbed to the top of countries of origin.
In the first seven months of 2016, 3,375 Venezuelans applied for asylum in Brazil. During the same period this year, 6,823 requests were filed.
In March 2017, the Brazilian government granted temporary residence status for Venezuelans fleeing the crisis.
The resolution allows citizens of Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname to normalize their immigration status by providing documentation and basic information that proves, among other things, that they have no criminal record.
The temporary residence status is valid for one year and can be extended. The resolution came after a request from prosecutors and human rights organizations to help the thousands of Venezuelans who have entered Brazil through the state of Roraima.
Immigration alert stampede
Both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the NGO Amnesty International have warned that the exodus of Venezuelans shot up 2,889 percent from 2012 and 2015, and the situation has only worsened due Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis.
Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reveal that asylum applications from Venezuelans around the world reached 34,000 in 2016 and 39,000 in 2017.
Renowned Nuevo Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer asserts that Latin American officials fear a situation similar to the one in Syria, with millions of Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring countries.
Oppenheimer calls for continued pressure on the Nicolás Maduro regime, with sanctions that force a change of direction in Venezuela. He warns that if they do not, there will be a “an even greater refugee crisis than the one that already exists.”
“Latin America should pressure Maduro as soon as possible to freeze the funds of Venezuelan officials and revoke their visas and those of their relatives until Venezuela allows the presidential elections of 2018 to be conducted with an independent electoral tribunal, credible international observers, and without prohibiting the participation of opposition leaders ” he said.