Human Interest

Venezuelan migrants find new land of opportunity in Brazil

By Alex Mirkhan

Brasilia, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- Marianny and her family left their native Venezuela last November. Her husband had already tried his luck in Peru and Colombia before they eventually found a welcoming land of opportunity in Brazil, which leads the way in approving asylum applications from citizens of its crisis-racked Caribbean neighbor.

Drawn by the economic prospects of Latin America’s biggest economy and the ease of that nation’s immigration process, the 29-year-old woman was granted asylum, hired by a food company and became the recipient – along with her husband and their three children – of temporary housing in Brasilia within the span of one year.

Brazil rolled out the red carpet in part because Marianny had been selected as a beneficiary of a project – carried out jointly by entities including Brazilian NGOs AVSI Brasil and Refugio 343 and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – to rescue Venezuelan refugee families in Brazil and promote their socio-economic reintegration in the national territory.

Her husband, 36-year-old Juan Rafael, previously had traveled alone to Peru and then Colombia but encountered numerous difficulties and even was forced to sleep out in the elements for a few days.

“He managed to find some jobs here and there and sent us money, but it was very little. There were a lot of Venezuelans in the same situation, and the local authorities wanted to deport him or arrest him,” Marianny recalled in remarks to Efe.

According to the UNHCR Representation in Brazil, more than 5 million Venezuelans have left their homeland due to the economic and humanitarian crisis there in recent years.

The majority have emigrated to nearby Spanish-speaking countries, mainly Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, but it is estimated that more than 540,000 people had entered Portuguese-speaking Brazil before its borders were temporarily closed in June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Luiz Fernando Godinho, spokesman for UNHCR Brazil, said international recognition of “serious human rights violations” in Venezuela has simplified the asylum process.

To date, Brazil’s CONARE refugee agency has granted asylum to 46,000 Venezuelans on a “prima facie” basis, a mechanism applied in cases of large-scale human rights abuses that force people to flee their homeland en masse.

This refugee status facilitates the process of their acquiring residency, work and study permits.

Marianny, Juan Rafael and their three children left the northeastern Venezuelan state of Monagas and arrived by car in Santa Elena de Uairen, a small city near the border with Brazil.

They then traveled on to Pacaraima, a town in the northwestern part of the remote Brazilian Amazon state of Roraima, and then to the state capital of Boa Vista.

The family had to spend a few weeks in a makeshift camp near Boa Vista’s bus station before they found temporary accommodation.

Despite having to cope last December with the death of her mother, who had been living at a migrant camp in Boa Vista, Marianny leveraged her communication skills and natural charm to secure a position at Levvo, a food company in Brasilia.

That company’s human resources director, Juliana Barbieri, said Marianny’s profile was a perfect fit.

“We were looking for people with communications skills, more uninhibited personalities for customer service management,” she said.

Marianny and her family arrived in Brazil’s capital in mid-August along with nearly 30 of their Venezuelan countrymen.

The woman has begun the process of enrolling her two daughters, 13-year-old Ismary and 12-year-old Ismery, and her three-year-old son Javier in public schools with the help of an AVSI Brasil psychologist, who also is assisting the other families with the adaptation process.

Alfonzo Jose, 18, and Stalling, 25, are a pair of Venezuelan cousins who also have been hired by Levvo.

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