Brazil Extends Program Welcoming Venezuelan Migrants

Operation Shelter started in early 2018 and will extend through March 2020.
Taciana Moury/Diálogo | 13 February 2019

Rapid Response

The Humanitarian Logistics Task Force set up an area in Roraima to provide shelter to Venezuelan migrants. (Photo: Brazilian Air Force First Sergeant Alexandre Manfrin)

The Brazilian government extended the Humanitarian Logistics Task Force’s (FTLogHum, in Portuguese) Operation Shelter for another year. Brazilian Minister of Defense Fernando Azevedo e Silva announced the decision at his January 2019 visit to the state of Roraima that borders Venezuela.

Service members from the Brazilian Armed Forces work as first responders to provide food, medical care, and shelter to migrants. (Photo: Brazilian Air Force First Sergeant Alexandre Manfrin)

This is a combined operation with government agencies, the Brazilian Armed Forces, international humanitarian aid agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. More than 500 service members from the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese), Brazilian Navy, and Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) participate in Operation Shelter.

FTLogHum carries out activities in Pacaraima, Roraima state, as well as in Boa Vista, the state capital, since early 2018. The objective is to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable migrants arriving from Venezuela.

Some of the activities conducted include receiving, identifying, screening, immunizing, sheltering, and even relocating people to other regions of Brazil. “The activities are developed in three main areas of operation: border organization, sheltering, and relocation,” said FAB Colonel Reginaldo Pereira Batista, deputy director of the Ministry of Defense’s (MD, in Portuguese) Logistics and Mobilization Coordination Center.

“We start by organizing the border, which means organizing the Venezuelan migration flow, from the time migrants arrive at the Pacaraima border. This is followed by shelter, to provide proper housing, food, and medical support to those in need,” said Col. Reginaldo. “Finally, [we conduct] relocation, which is the distribution of Venezuelan migrants across other Brazilian states.”

According to the officer, the Brazilian government and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) manage shelters in Roraima. “The Ministry of Defense is responsible for food, infrastructure, waste management services, access control, and other renovation and maintenance activities,” Col. Reginaldo said.

Structure

FTLogHum maintains a stationary structure in Pacaraima, including stations to receive, screen, and offer advanced services. The unit also provides reinforcement through the 3rd Border Special Platoon for the support area and two shelters. Members of the Warao indigenous population take refuge at the Janokoida shelter, and the rest of the migrants in the other. The city of Boa Vista, capital of Roraima, has 11 shelters and areas for relocation, support, overnight accommodation, screening stations, information, and lockers.

The Pacaraima shelters can accommodate 724 people while 5,822 can lodge in Boa Vista. As of early February, they both operate at maximum capacity, according to information from MD. “The shelter’s main goal is to provide temporary housing to homeless immigrants who are completely vulnerable,” said EB Second Lieutenant Sidmar José Cruz Junior, who works at FTLogHum’s Operation Shelter Social Communications Cell, in Roraima.

The shelters provide migrants with food, accommodations, sanitary facilities, medical assistance, and services such as waste management and laundry. In partnership with United Nations agencies, educational, recreational, and sports activities take place.

Brazilian Air Force airplanes transport migrants to other regions of Brazil to enter the workforce. (Photo: Brazilian Air Force Senior Airman André Feitosa)

“The main goal of Operation Shelter is border organization, controlling migration flow, providing assistance to all migrants at the various shelters to ensure they get access to education and local job opportunities, through the relocation process,” 2nd Lt. Sidmar said.

Relocation around Brazil

Migration flow control is achieved by relocating Venezuelans who cross the border—nearly 700 per month, according to FTLogHum data. There are still 5,800 migrants in the state while 4,200 were taken to 15 different regions of Brazil.

“It’s important to reduce the direct impact to the state of Roraima, guaranteeing health, epidemiological, and sanitation control of our territory by vaccinating the immigrants. In addition to that, the Armed Forces’ relocation process promotes inclusion in the workforce, and enables migrants to contribute in some way to the country’s development,” 2nd Lt. Sidmar said.

The EB database carries migrants’ personal information, such as how many family members travel with them and professional history. “After registration, a job search for these immigrants is conducted across various states in the country, and based on companies’ interests in hiring them,” said 2nd Lt. Sidmar.

According to Col. Reginaldo, only those with legal status in the country, who were vaccinated, clinically assessed, and signed a voluntary agreement can be relocated. “Immigrants living in Roraima’s public shelters have priority,” he said.

The Federal Relocation Subcommittee carries out the process, which the Social Development Ministry coordinates with help from UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations Population Fund. Since April 2018, the relocation process has had 22 phases.

Migration crisis

According to data from Operation Shelter, the screening station served 70,000 Venezuelans through December 2018. For Elisa Ribeiro Pinchemel, a Brazilian lawyer specialized in international law with a doctorate in social sciences, the migration problem Venezuela faces is mainly due to basic human rights violations aggravated by a major economic crisis, “from the loss of civil and political freedom to essential rights that should be protected by law, such as food, education, and housing,” she said.

Pinchemel pointed out that sheltering migrants is part of Brazil’s foreign policy. “They entered through the land border in the country’s north. The flow of people is significant, and the impact is easily noticed. However, the majority begin their migration into the country on their way to another final destination, often due to language or job opportunities in a neighboring country,” she said. As such, Brazil is one of the countries in the region with the least number of Venezuelans who stay permanently.

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