Until April this year, Brazil received 1,938 refugee applications, but only 680 were accepted. Most of them, 532, were submitted by Syrians, who make up the largest foreign refugee community in Brazil, with just over 1,200 people.
Then come the Colombians, the Angolans, and the Lebanese. Haitians do not count into these statistics because they are entitled to special humanitarian visas, which grant them refuge upon simple proof of nationality.
The number of asylum applications in Brazil has increased exponentially over the years, going from 566 in 2010 to 5,256 last year. However, the number of successful applications is still considered low.
Federal Immigration Services Ombudsman Aurélio Rios explained that the National Council for Refugees (CONARE) is the authority responsible for considering applications.
“We need to improve our procedures in order to become faster and more liberal in granting the requests,” he said.
Rios mentions such issues as missing documents and proof of refugee status among the causes for the low successful application rate. He credits refugees’ interest in Brazil to the country’s rising international prominence in recent years.
“Brazil has been playing an important role,” says Andrés Ramirez, a representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He said the demand coming from refugees shows that the country is not indifferent to global crisis and has been a major global player.
According to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to which Brazil is a signing party, a refugee is someone who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.
As an attempt to mitigate difficulties relating to immigration, the Ministry of Justice is planning to submit a proposal for a new statute on immigration, which should be drafted into a bill of law in Congress.
One key feature of the proposal is the creation of a central authority on immigration in the country for the aim of reducing the amount of red tape and thus handling immigrant demands more quickly, including refugee applications.