By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The profile of refugees and refugees arriving in São Paulo has changed, according to a survey released yesterday (March 22nd) by Caritas, a non-profit NGO of the Catholic Church that works with the global issue.
Among the 3,234 people served by the entity in 2016, women accounted for 36 percent of the total, more than double the thirteen percent registered in 2013. The proportion is growing steadily: in 2015, women refugees and applicants were 27 percent of the public that Cáritas saw.
“In 2013, it was more common for single men to arrive, singles, with the intention of later bringing the family,” emphasizes Caritas director Marcelo Maróstica. According to the priest, this is the most common profile among Africans.
However, due to a number of factors, including an increase in the number of Syrian refugees, Marostica said that the arrival of women alone or accompanied by their children is increasingly common.
“They are coming from countries with conflict, ethnic warfare. Usually the man goes to war. The man dies, and the woman feels obliged to defend the family and to leave her country. In other situations, rape is used as a weapon of war,” the priest added.
Foreigners who felt obliged to leave Syria were the fourth largest group catered for by the NGO, among the 63 nationalities that came to Cáritas de São Paulo over the past year. First are citizens of Angola, followed by those of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The number of pregnant women arriving at the organization is also increasing. In 2013, there were ten pregnant women; in 2015, there were 110 and in 2016, 173 were registered. The number of women who were with their children, but without a partner, stood at 276 last year. By 2015, there were 202 mothers in this situation, compared to only eighteen in 2013.
On the other hand, the proportion of refugees and applicants with high school or higher reaches 58 percent, which, according to Father Maróstica, runs counter to common sense on the subject.
“Often, when people speak of refugees, they have a very distorted view: they think that refugees do not have schooling, they do not have preparation. And we realize that the large percentage of newcomers have high school and higher education,” he said.
The NGO Caritas Brasileira describes themselves as ‘social promotion and action that works in the defense of human rights, food security and sustainable development’. They report that across the globe, sixty million people were forced to leave their homes, migrating to other countries.
By the beginning of 2016, Brazil had 8,863 refugees, according to the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE). Syrians are part of the largest recognized refugee community in Brazil. They numbered 2,298, followed by Angolans (1,420), Colombians (1,100), Congolese (968) and Palestinians (376).
In comparison, the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year ending in September 2016.