The country is among those that best shelter refugees in the world
By Carolina Montenegro*
Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica were named as the best countries for refugees in the world, according to the 2009 Refugee World Survey of the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).
On the opposite side, there are Thailand, South Africa, Gaza, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt and Turkey – places where human rights violations prevail, alongside lack of adequate care for refugees.
The organization, which for about 100 years has been one of the most active voices in defense of international rights of refugees, publishes the study annually. The countries listed in the research are assessed according to criteria such as physical protection, detention, access to justice, freedom of movement and right to employment.
Quoting figures from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the report indicates that, in Brazil, there were 21,400 registered refugees and asylum seekers in 2008. Most of them came from Colombia and Angola.
The text notes that “refugees receive documents that ensure their right to stay in Brazil, have the right to have IDs, as any foreigner residing legally in the country”.
Other positive points highlighted are the rights of “asylum seekers arrested for a felony charge to have access to a state lawyer” and “the lack of refugee camps in the country, there is freedom of movement and refugees can settle wherever they want”. The exception is the resettlement program of the Brazilian government with the UNHCR, which serves only Colombians and a group of 117 Palestinians who came to the country in 2007 and provides pre-determined cities to receive refugees, according to assistance and adaptation inquiries.
Most refugees sheltered in Brazil choose to live in urban areas and those who want to go on international travels can make a request to CONARE (Brazilian National Council for Refugees), if they can pay for their own travel expenses. The Brazilian nationality, however, can only be acquired after almost 10 years of residence in Brazil.
Regarding the access to the labor market, the research shows that refugees also enjoy the same labor rights as Brazilian citizens. They are allowed to have bank accounts and to own properties.
On the other hand, economic sectors barred to foreigners in general, such as mining, media and transportation, are also restricted to refugees. “And the delay in receiving the identity documents in the states of Amazonas and São Paulo made it difficult for refugees to have access to credit”.
Such difficulties are far from the harsh reality that refugees face in other countries. Last year, Thailand’s navy returned dozens of boats full of refugees from Myanmar to the sea. In South Africa, xenophobic attacks killed dozens of foreigners and led thousands to flee their homes.
In Gaza, an Israeli offensive group killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. In Malaysia, refugees deported are sold as slaves. In Kenya, the overcrowding in refugee camps remains, kept for decades to shelter Somali and cases of forced deportation, violence and corruption at the border between the countries are increasingly often.
In Egypt, police shot and killed over 30 African immigrants who were trying to cross the border into Israel. While Turkey has maintained the policy of deporting hundreds of asylum seekers back to their countries of origin, without any guarantee of protection. There was an episode in which four people drowned when they were forced to swim across a river back to Iraq.
To read the report, visit: http://www.refugees.org/FTP/WRS09PDFS/BestandWorst.pdf
* Refugees United Special Reporter