Despite Pandemic, Relocation and Assistance for Venezuelans Continue in Brazil
Brasília – Attention to refugees and migrants from Venezuela does not stop with COVID-19. Since 2 February when the Government of Brazil decreed a national health emergency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has strengthened its efforts in caring for vulnerable Venezuelans.
Relocation carried out by “Operation Welcome” (or in Portuguese, Operação Acolhida) continues to take Venezuelans gathered in Boa Vista and Manaus – both closer to Venezuela yet far from Brazil’s coastal cities – to other districts in Brazil. The Brazilian government, partnering with UN agencies and civil society organizations, aims to help Venezuelans who want to stay in Brazil rebuild their lives.
Since the start of the pandemic, 500 Venezuelans per month have been relocated via commercial flights, with tickets purchased by IOM. The total number of direct beneficiaries, IOM reports, now tops 6,700 from early 2018 to June of this year. Adding other partners, including the Brazilian Air Force, Brazil has relocated 38,643 Venezuelans with the support of IOM in the whole process.
Just among the Venezuelans IOM has benefited, just over half (55%) relocated under a family reunification plan; another 19 per cent traveled to fill a job vacancy in the destination city.
Under the right conditions regarding COVID-19, Venezuelans leaving northern cities can be in and out of transit shelters in just a few days. In Belem, for example, IOM supports the management of a transit shelter in partnership with a local NGO called “Dejobe”. Its capacity is for 66 people, yet in recent months has handled over 200 refugees and migrants who were directed to other cities.
Through Project Pana, IOM – working with the Catholic aid group, Caritas – also assists relocated Venezuelans in Brasília, Florianopolis, São Paulo, and Porto Velho. For three months, refugees and migrants shelter under IOM’s support while taking their first steps towards new lives.
In both Manaus and Boa Vista, IOM organized several task forces to help Venezuelan refugees and migrants who lack internet access find ways to complete registration to qualify for emergency financial assistance offered by the Brazilian government. To date, IOM has reached more than 1,500 people in this way.
In Manaus, IOM also supports the city council to keep indigenous Venezuelans better protected against the pandemic by offering food, hygiene items, and technical advice. In the last three months, more than 18,000 meals have been offered in the shelters, while in Boa Vista IOM expanded access to water with the installation of 24 structures for hand washing at the city bus station, which sees about 400 people per day.
These initiatives were possible thanks to the financial support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the Department of State of the United States.