By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – More than half of the nearly 128,000 Venezuelans who have entered Brazil in the last eighteen months, through the country’s northern border in the state of Roraima, have left the country, according to Brazil’s Chief of Staff, Eliseu Padilha.
“Between 2017 and 2018, 127,778 Venezuelans crossed the border at Pacaraima (RR), of which 68,968 left the country – of these, 47,855 left Brazilian territory by land border, while 21,113 took international flights.” stated Padilha Tuesday on his social media page.
The serious political crisis faced by Venezuela in the last few years led to a surge in the inflow of people seeking refuge in Brazil. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched across the border into the Northern Brazilian state of Roraima, and set up camps in cities like Boa Vista.
According to Brazilian Army data more than 1,500 Venezuelans are currently living in parks and sleeping on streets in eleven of the state’s fifteen largest cities. Hundreds of others are living in make-shift tents provided by the United Nations.
The enormous burden of hundreds of people crossing the border into Roraima on a daily basis led the state’s governor in April to ask Brazil’s Supreme Court to temporarily close the country’s border with Venezuela and limit the number of people coming in. The request was denied by Brazilian authorities.
With the increased tension at the border, the Brazilian government signed a new law last month establishing emergency actions for immigrants in the areas of social protection, health, education, human rights, food and public safety. The law also provided help to Venezuelans who want to live in other states in Brazil, the so-called internalization.
To date the Brazilian Armed Forces has transported more than 650 Venezuelans to São Paulo, Manaus, Cuiabá, Rio de Janeiro, Igarassu (PE) and Conde (PB).
During the last eighteen months, 35,540 Venezuelans have officially requested refuge in Brazil and 11,1 thousand requested residence. According to authorities, however, migration due to economic hardships does not necessarily grant those people refugee status.
“The refugee status is very specific: there needs to be a clear violation of human rights,” says Bernardo de Almeida Laferte, representative of the National Secretariat of Justice and Citizenship.