IOM/UNHCR: Relocations in Brazil Offer Dignity and Hope to Thousands of Venezuelans

Geneva – More than 50,000 Venezuelans have been relocated from Brazil’s isolated northern state of Roraima to 675 Brazilian cities, thanks to a model national initiative.  

Since the relocation strategy was launched three years ago, it has helped nearly one in five Venezuelans in the country to significantly improve their quality of life.  

A survey carried out by UNHCR with 360 relocated Venezuelan families showed that over 77 per cent had found employment within weeks of their arrival to their destination, compared to only 7 per cent being employed in Roraima. As a result, the families reported that, within six to eight weeks of settling in a new city, their incomes had increased.  

Prior to the relocation, six out of ten of those interviewed lived in temporary shelters and 3 per cent were homeless. Four months after being relocated, none were sleeping rough. The majority were renting homes, and only 5 per cent were living in temporary accommodation. Moreover, after being relocated, all the families had at least one child in school, compared to 65 per cent before they moved.  

The relocation strategy is part of Operation Welcome (Operação Acolhida), the federal government’s response to the influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants to Brazil. It aims to reduce the pressure on vulnerable border communities where Venezuelans arrive, and foster integration by helping refugees and migrants find new job opportunities in other cities.  

“The response implemented by the Brazilian government has successfully helped tens of thousands of Venezuelans to rebuild their lives in the country with dignity,” said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission in Brazil, Stéphane Rostiaux. “We have reached an important milestone amid a pandemic which has unexpectedly disrupted the lives of many. We must continue to work together to support the most vulnerable.” 

Despite COVID-19, relocations have not stopped over the last year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1,000 Venezuelans have been safely relocated each month.  

“Brazil has been steadfast in its resolve to find long-term solutions to the plight of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, despite the added challenge posed by COVID-19,” said Jose Egas, the Representative in Brazil of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. “The internal relocation strategy has proven effective in giving displaced Venezuelans the chance for a new beginning. It constitutes a model practice, both for the region and the world.”  

All those who embarked on relocation flights were screened for COVID-19, while other measures were taken to prevent the spread of the disease.  

Among those who have been relocated, 47 per cent are women and girls and 37 per cent are minors. The vast majority, 88 per cent, travelled as a family unit. Approximately 260,000 Venezuelans refugees and migrants are currently living in Brazil, according to government statistics. 

Voluntary relocation efforts through Operation Welcome are supported by the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V), composed of 48 organizations from civil society and the United Nations, under the leadership of IOM and UNHCR. 

Since 2018, IOM and UNHCR have assisted with the verification of documentation, conducting pre-departure medical consultations, funding travel costs, finding adequate reception facilities for people with specific needs and funding infrastructure improvements and other programme expenses.  

The agencies also help refugees and migrants secure job opportunities and onward travel, when necessary.  

The R4V platform’s Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Brazil requires USD 98 million to assist Venezuelans in the country, including activities related to the relocation strategy.  

 
For more information, please contact: 

In Brazil: 
Juliana Hack, IOM (jhack@iom.int), +55 61 3771 3772 
Luiz Fernando Godinho Santos, UNHCR (godinho@unhcr.org), +55 61 9 8187 0978 

In Panama: 
Daniela Rovina, IOM (drovina@iom.int), +507 6312-8294 
Bryan Brennan, IOM (bbrennan@iom.int), +507 6379-9450 
William Spindler, UNHCR (spindler@unhcr.org), +507 6382 7815 
Olga Sarrado, UNHCR (sarrado@unhcr.org), +507 6640 0185 

In Geneva: 
Angela Wells, IOM (awells@iom.int) +41 79 403 5365 
Aikaterini Kitidi, UNHCR (kitidi@unhcr.org), +41 79 580 8334