Press Release —Local September 11, 2020

Legal Assistance to the Migrant Population in Brazil

Operation zones of organizations participating in the research

Brasília – The report "Legal Assistance to the Migrant Population in Brazil: Profile, Good Practices and Challenges of the Civil Society Support Network" offers the most comprehensive analysis of the support network for migrants and refugees in Brazil.

Many vulnerable international migrants arriving in Brazil receive legal assistance from non-governmental organizations to obtain documents, receive information, request migration regularization, or secure their labour rights. With the aim of better understanding the profile of these organizations and defining actions to strengthen their capacities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), trough the IOM Development Fund, and the Office of the Federal Public Defender (DPU) have carried out a mapping for the first time, which is now available as a book.

For the research, 34 organizations assisting migrants in 20 cities across 16 states in the five regions of the country were studied during the first half of 2020. Civil society organizations participating in the study had more than 1,100 professionals providing services to migrants. Of these, approximately 900 work voluntarily. Details of the survey will be discussed in a virtual seminar on the Facebook page of IOM Brazil on 15 September 2020 at 4PM (GMT-3).

"The research showcases the great collaboration of the Brazilian civil society, which reinforces the importance of partnerships for effective migration management. For IOM, this synergy between the different actors working in the reception and integration of migrants is fundamental for successful migration policy, benefiting migrants and the host community," emphasized the Stéphane Rostiaux, Chief of Mission, IOM Brazil.

The profile highlights the extensive network of organizations providing support to migrants in the five regions of the country. Almost half of the participant organizations are located in the Southeastern region (46 per cent), where 66 per cent of international migrants live. This is followed by the Northern region (20 per cent) which has provided emergency response services to Venezuelan migrants; the region is home to 7 per cent of international migrants. The Southern region ranks third (17 per cent) and hosts 16 per cent of Brazil’s international migrants. The Central Western (11 per cent) and Northeastern (6 per cent) regions follow with 4 per cent and 7 per cent of the country’s immigrants, respectively.

The research also features diverse themes distinguishing the various motives for seeking assistance. Migration regularization and naturalization lead the list, followed by guidelines on labour issues, issuance of background certificates, and action in cases of gender-based violence, among others. The internalization strategy of Venezuelans and support for victims of trafficking are also on the list.

Among the issue areas of migration regularization that generated the most demand for assistance are the application for asylum, the request for residence permits for Mercosur citizens, the support for naturalization applications, the residence permits for nationals of neighbouring countries, and the humanitarian visas for Haitians.

More than half of the organizations also support migrants and refugees who want to denounce acts of racism and xenophobia, who are preparing for eligibility interviews in their asylum claim, or who claim that the due process of law was not followed during expulsion proceedings.

Another theme present in the study is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the assistance to vulnerable migrants. The relevant organizations were observed for their efforts in facilitating the access of migrants to up-to-date and reliable information on the prevention and treatment of the virus and on the restrictions on international movement introduced by countries. The organizations also implemented activities online to facilitate registration for emergency aid offered by the Brazilian Government.

More than 60 per cent per cent of organizations that engaged in the research have been working for more than five years, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, services were not only offered face-to-face, but also through telephone, email and messaging application channels.

The research also draws attention to the number of migrants who access the services provided by the organizations. Organizations with a capacity of up to 150 services per year account for one-third of the total. Half of the organizations assisted between 250 and 2,400 people a year, demonstrating the large number of beneficiaries of the civil society-led care network. On average, each organization assists up to 1,500 people per year. In total, the whole network of organizations assisted more than 50,000 beneficiaries over a 12-month period in 2019.

Analyzing the results of the study, the General Federal Public Defender, Gabriel Faria de Oliveira, pointed out, "Using this research, we can adapt our performance and  collaborate with our partners in working towards improved strategies to effectively transform the lives of migrant people for the better."

Reflecting on the complexity of the civil society network, as illustrated by the project, Oliveira concluded, "To transform the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, it is necessary to establish a network of reception, guidance and care, which is not limited to the legal aspects of migration, but which also meets the social and welfare needs of these populations."

Taking stock of the survey project, IOM and the DPU have formalized a network of civil society actors and are already working on building collaborative tools to better provide services to the migrant and refugee population.

The implementation of the study, the creation of the network and collaborative tools and the future implementation of training cycles are financed by the IOM Development Fund.