IOM Launches Report on Durable Solutions for Indigenous Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants

Brazil – More than 5,000 indigenous refugees and migrants from Venezuela have arrived in Brazil since 2017, posing significant challenges to the public officials and humanitarian workers dealing with the flow.

Brazil has emerged as the regional leader in the humanitarian response for indigenous refugees and migrants from Venezuela. Now Brazil is facing the challenge of putting long-term policies into action for this newly arrived population.

Taking stock of the Brazilian experience, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is launching the first-ever study on durable solutions for indigenous Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

The report Durable Solutions for Indigenous Migrants and Refugees in the Context of the Venezuelan Flow in Brazil, released in English and Portuguese, assesses the three traditional types of durable solutions: voluntary return, resettlement, and local integration, to propose a unique, culturally appropriate approach to be applied to the Brazilian case.

One of the report's main recommendations is to inform and consult indigenous people before acting. Professor Elaine Moreira, an anthropologist from Brasilia University who served as principal investigator during the research, emphasized "this study would not be possible without the participation, trust and support from the indigenous people who share their world views, needs, and perspectives on the migration flow."

To better appreciate what the indigenous from Venezuela understand to be a "durable solution,"—and what kind of public policy should be tailored to address their needs—IOM has promoted rounds of consultation with the three indigenous peoples in the cities of Pacaraima, Boa Vista, and Manaus. The testimonials of the indigenous Venezuelan refugees and migrants are collected and shared along with the report chapters.

"One of the main lessons learned is that each indigenous people needs different long-term solutions," explained Marcelo Torelly, IOM's partnerships and cooperation coordinator in Brazil.

He was referring to the three prominent peoples' movements: the Warao people, who represent 65 per cent of all the indigenous Venezuelans in Brazil, yet who are culturally different from the Pémon people (30% of the total) and the Eñepa (5%).

While Waraos are urban indigenous peoples, the Pémon and Eñepa live in rural areas. Moreover, the Pémon people have familiar links to the Taurepang people who live in protected lands in Northern Brazil.

"This means that in one case, we can reinforce existing public policies to the indigenous people coming to live with their foreign brothers that are historically settled while in other cases brand new initiatives must be designed to assist a population with no historic ties to Brazil," added Torelly.

With the report, IOM aims to contribute to the global discussion on creating culturally appropriate public policies to indigenous peoples in displacement and the local debate in Brazil and the region on how to move from emergency policies to long-term policies.

Evaluating the report conclusions was Erika Yamada, of UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She emphasizes that "the discussion on shelters exit strategies and the importance of prior consultation is especially relevant to allow those indigenous from Venezuela to take an informed decision, mainly in current pandemic context when governments and societies must work together to protect the indigenous peoples’ life."

The study concludes with 25 recommendations in six primary areas: recognition of indigenous condition, documentation and community reinforcement; institutional aspects of governance and dialogue; shelter reception and exit strategies; access to education; access to health, and social assistance.

This initiative is possible thanks to the financial support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the Department of State of the United States. The report is available in the IOM Online Bookstore and can be downloaded (English version) here.