Refugees: Brazil still needs to implement and support public policies to welcome these people

Country needs to strengthen public policies for shelter and employment so that the projection of a growing number of people does not become a crisis


Historically, Brazil recognized 10,141 people as refugees, a figure not so significant if considered in comparison with other countries in the world.

Every three seconds, someone, somewhere in the world, is forced to leave their home behind. Data from the UNHCR, the UN refugee Agency, indicate that more than 68 million people in the world are outside their places of origin due to wars, conflicts and persecutions. Despite the record number of displaced persons and refugees worldwide, the health services provided to them continue to improve. The information is from the Agencys Annual Public Health Assessment. According to the survey, a weekly follow-up of key indicators is helping to build more efficient and rapid responses. The UNHCR warns, however, that diseases such as anemia and problems with child growth remain worrying.

In recent times, Brazil has deepened as the destination of immigrants in search of survival away from home. Maybe one of the important factors for the increase of the refugee claim is on the peculiarities of Brazilian migration legislation, which has the refugee claim as the safest way for migrants from some parts of the world come in regularly in the Country – that stands out for having a safe haven legislation considered advanced (Law No. 9.474, of 22 July 1997). The law recognizes as refugees those people fleeing persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion and belonging to group social, as well as those who seek safety before severe situations and widespread violation of human rights.

Historically, the Brazil recognized as refugees 10.141 people , a number not so significant if considered in comparison with other countries of the world, such as Turkey, which at the end of 2017 had 3,5 millions of refugees living in your territory. In addition to defining the concept of refugee, our legislation ensures the rights resulting from this condition, such as the right to work and to education, essential to resuming life with dignity in the country of refuge. However, the increase in the number of immigrants and refugees arriving in the country has blamed themselves, especially those who migrate from Venezuela, in relation to the resurgence of some infectious diseases, such as measles, diphtheria, among others.

But they would not be victims too?

In a recent interview to Sputnik Brazil, doctor Karina Oliani, health coordinator of the Dharma Institute, who was on Brazils border with Venezuela, said that Venezuelans come to Brazil with low immunity due to malnutrition.

Among the aspects of public policies aimed at these people, who arrive fragile to the country and need to be integrated, is health care. Like all residents in the national territory, refugees are entitled to the Unified Health System (SUS), but there are difficulties in accessing health care by this population, which has specific vulnerabilities.

Chief of Staff at UNHCRs São Paulo Office, Maria Beatriz Nogueira, admits that access to social rights, such as health, education and social assistance is still a challenge, but Brazil has been developing good initiatives in this sense, but it is essential to emphasize the need for the differentiated situation of these people, who are not national citizens and do not have full knowledge about the Brazilian social organization. Brazil faces many challenges related to refugees, and good public policies can make a big difference in their lives, as for example, the recognition of documents as certificates of professional qualification, facilitates the process for refugees to get jobs or continue their studies. Some States in Brazil, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have already implemented initiatives related to the validation of academic diplomas, she adds.

According to her, anti-xenophobia campaigns are of great importance, to which the Brazilian population is smartening up on the issue of refuge and migration. The UNHCR Chief defends the access to education and job opportunities so that refugee children and young people can become successful professionals and integrated into Brazilian society. In this sense, the young apprentice project , sponsored by the UNHCR, has been responsible for insertion in the labor market of young people in the context of refuge, a project involving 180 hours of training with the goal of helping young refugees integrate into the labor market. It is important that such an initiative is replicated in different institutions so that its range is ever expanding and enabling this successful future that this population aspires, she adds.

Questioned if we are prepared to receive and extend the reception of refugees, Maria Beatriz says that Brazil is a country of wide territorial extension, with favorable environment for local integration of refugees, both for socio-economic characteristics as for cultural standards. Data collected by the UNHCR, show that Brazil was the second largest receiver of Venezuelan national refugees in 2017 in the region.

Book addresses assistance to refugees in Rio de Janeiro public health

The publication Recomeço, disclosed in 2017, addresses the challenges and learning of SUS professionals who serve refugees and asylum seekers in the states capital. The work brings accounts and stories of both foreigners and professionals who are in the front line of the calls. The digital version is available for download at

The infectious disease expert, Dr. Andrew Siqueira, who is also a researcher at the Evandro Chagas National Institute of Infectious Diseases (INI-Fiocruz), remembers that the host country must provide protection to this population arriving in their territory and must ensure those rights that were at risk in the country of origin. He highlights the importance of health professionals attending these populations to not harm their reception, since they are people in pain, as well as the commitment of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT) with improving the lives of these neglected populations and the right to health and citizenship of migrants and refugees.