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Brazilian Migratory Context

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As of 2011, Brazil registered an increase in migratory flows of intra-regional origin and forced mobility. 

Relative distribution of registered immigrants by country of birth  

Brazil 2019

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Source: compiled from data from the Brazilian Federal Police.

At the end of 2019, the number of immigrants in Brazil exceeded 1.4 million people.

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more than 5 times

was the growth of refugee applications between 2015 and 2019, with those of Venezuelan origin being the most numerous.

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Source: compiled from data from the Brazilian Federal Police.

 
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Legal framework for protection
and social inclusion

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Brazil has a modern legal framework in terms of migration and refuge. The legal framework is made up of the Refuge Law, which incorporated the 1951 Geneva Convention, its 1967 Protocol and some elements of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration into the Brazilian legal system; as well as the Migration Law, which recognizes migrants as subjects of rights and guarantees equal treatment in relation to nationals. However, there are still gaps in the implementation of these laws, mainly those related to the lack of a national migration policy and the securitization logic of the dictatorship era that still permeates mobility management in Brazil ( Zapata & Tapia , 2021 ).

APPLICABLE LAWS
Refuge Law (1997)
Migration Law (2017)

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Inclusion of migrants and refugees in the palliative measures adopted during the pandemic

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Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the government has issued a series of ordinances sealing the country's borders, which have affected the right to request international protection, especially on the country's northern border.

 

In particular, these ordinances:

I. They do not explicitly contemplate Brazil's commitment to protect people seeking refuge and/or humanitarian protection and go against the constitution and national laws.

II. They open space to deny the possibility of requesting refuge and allow the summary deportation of "offenders".

III. They discriminate against the Venezuelan population because the entry exceptions for spouses or partners, parents and children of Brazilians, and regular immigrants or those residing in the country, do not apply to people arriving from Venezuela.  

IV. They caused a significant increase in the number of people entering the country through unofficial channels (trochas) and an 80-fold increase in deportations between 2019 and 2020.

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As of March 20, 2020, face-to-face service at the Federal Police and the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE) was suspended, which made it impossible to process and renew documents and delayed immigration procedures (regularization, residence permits, family reunification , refugee claims, etc.).

 

Despite the fact that the government decreed the automatic extension of the validity periods of migration documents, migrants and refugees have faced problems, mainly when exercising their rights of access to the social protection system and the labor market.

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The physical distancing measures disproportionately affected the migrant and refugee population – especially those from countries in the region – given their precarious insertion in the labor market and their overrepresentation in the informal economy and in the sectors of activity with the greatest exposure to violence. Public attention. 

 
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What impacts did the pandemic have on the migrant and refugee population?

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The main measures taken by the federal government to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic among families were the expansion of the Bolsa Familia social assistance program, by increasing the existing transfer amount and expanding it to new beneficiaries, and the creation of the Emergency Aid (Law 13,982 of April 2, 2020), which allowed informal workers and people without a job, fixed income, or low income to receive an economic benefit for 9 months in 2020.

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These programs do not explicitly include the migrant and refugee population residing in the country, their right to access services, programs and social benefits is guaranteed by the Brazilian legal system, regardless of their migratory status. Despite initial implementation problems, the majority of migrants and refugees who applied for these benefits were covered. However, although the digital registry to receive the aid was open to all, there were some difficulties in collecting the benefit, since it was essential to present a valid immigration document.

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The programs focused on the migrant and refugee population were carried out by civil society organizations and international agencies. For the most part, these institutions redirected resources from job placement and local integration programs to meet the increased demand for humanitarian assistance (basic baskets and food cards, masks, drinking water, personal and home hygiene kits, etc.) .

Gisela P. Zapata

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“The protection of the rights of migrants and refugees during the pandemic”

PhD in Human and Economic Geography

Center for Regional Development and Planning (CEDEPLAR)

Federal University of Minas Gerais

This and other publications from our group are supported by the FORD/LASA Special Projects program [Grant # FL-15-01].

This and other publications of our group are supported by the FORD/LASA Special Projects [Grant # FL-15-01].

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