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10:06

Brazil: Venezuelans in search of food, jobs and hope push Brazilian region to breaking point

Brazil, Boa Vista
April 17, 2018 at 08:09 GMT +00:00 · Published

The recent influx of migrants from neighbouring Venezuela has placed a huge burden on the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista and the surrounding region, where authorities have declared a state of emergency. The UN's UNHCR refugee agency says almost 800 Venezuelans are arriving in Brazil each day, many of them seeking asylum amid deteriorating economic conditions in their home country. Since the beginning of last year, over 52,000 Venezuelans have landed in Brazil according to the UN. Some 25,000 of those are asylum seekers and 10,000 hold temporary resident visas. The majority of new arrivals end up in the northern state of Roraima, where many make their homes in temporary accommodation facilities and makeshift camps located in the regional capital of Boa Vista. Other Venezuelan migrants are forced to live rough while they search for jobs. At one camp managed by the UNHCR, Venezuelan migrants are provided with a safe haven while they wait to move on to other parts of Brazil in search of employment. One man staying at the facility, Hector Palomo, said he had left his 12 children in Venezuela while he looks for a job in Brazil. "I would like to bring all of them. Not to a shelter, but to a home, where they have stability and they feel comfortable, where I have a job," he said from the camp in Boa Vista. The turmoil of leaving home for pastures new is also compounded by the lack of infrastructure and organisation when migrants arrive at their destination. Waiting times are a common theme voiced by the migrants. Pedro Salgado spoke of a 6 km (3.8 mi) long queue just to cross the Brazilian border and, after the arduous journey, he will likely be forced to join thousands of others in search of food and shelter. The lack of paid work back home in Venezuela is the breaking point for many. With the peso plummeting and the economy in dire straits, migrating to neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Colombia has become the only way out for many."We want to work. Look, we have to collect scraps left at the market to be able to eat. We don't have any money. So we have to search through the bins for food," explained Luiz Suarez, another migrant. He said the situation in his homeland is made all the worse by the fact that it is rich in mismanaged natural resources.Boa Vista has also seen a greater strain put on its healthcare facilities. Marcia Monteiro Marques, a technical director of gynecology at a local maternity hospital, spoke of the rising number of babies delivered to Venezuelan women at the facility. "We - in 2016 - had 12 births, now, every month, we have more than 60 women giving birth," she said. Speaking at the hospital, patient Belice Mairin lamented the state of healthcare provision in her home country. "In Venezuela right now it's impossible to get any medicine. That's what my family tells me, it's impossible to get anything," she said.Colonel Lupchinski, a media advisor for the Brazilian task force for the humanitarian emergency in Roraima, described how the dire situation has taken its toll on the city, with the infrastructure barely able to cope with the 500 daily arrivals in need of help."The deployment of humanitarian forces aims to improve this situation, because in the shelters we are providing, in cooperation with the UNHCR, security, food, health services and infrastructure, so that people have dignified living conditions," he explained.Venezuelans have flooded southwards to Brazil amid a weak job market back home. The country's economy has been unable to sustain itself in recent years due to plummeting global oil prices. Over 90 percent of Venezuelan export revenue relies on oil production, and a barrel cost upwards of $110 (€89) in the four years leading up to 2014; however, the price today hovers at around $70 (€57) and had more than halved from its highest point in the intervening period. There has also been a dramatic fall in Venezuelan oil production, with output dropping 13 percent last year alone. With the oil-rich nation also leaning heavily on international credit and being hit hard by sanctions implemented by the US and EU, socio-economic crisis has followed. Government mismanagement and a lack of internal investment have also been blamed for deepening the crisis. Hyperinflation resulting from the downturn means everyday prices have risen dramatically, leading to a shortage of jobs and amenities while, conversely, crime and poverty rates have rocketed. In the first quarter of this year alone, inflation rose 454 percent in Venezuela.The humanitarian fallout has now reached northern Brazil, where the UN and local government are struggling to raise enough money to meet the costs of tackling the crisis. It has also turned the lives of many Venezuelans upside down. For them, helping their relatives back home is a priority. Pedro Salgado summed up the predicament of many of his compatriots. "We love our families. We are looking for a future for them, and this is the only way," he said.

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The recent influx of migrants from neighbouring Venezuela has placed a huge burden on the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista and the surrounding region, where authorities have declared a state of emergency. The UN's UNHCR refugee agency says almost 800 Venezuelans are arriving in Brazil each day, many of them seeking asylum amid deteriorating economic conditions in their home country. Since the beginning of last year, over 52,000 Venezuelans have landed in Brazil according to the UN. Some 25,000 of those are asylum seekers and 10,000 hold temporary resident visas. The majority of new arrivals end up in the northern state of Roraima, where many make their homes in temporary accommodation facilities and makeshift camps located in the regional capital of Boa Vista. Other Venezuelan migrants are forced to live rough while they search for jobs. At one camp managed by the UNHCR, Venezuelan migrants are provided with a safe haven while they wait to move on to other parts of Brazil in search of employment. One man staying at the facility, Hector Palomo, said he had left his 12 children in Venezuela while he looks for a job in Brazil. "I would like to bring all of them. Not to a shelter, but to a home, where they have stability and they feel comfortable, where I have a job," he said from the camp in Boa Vista. The turmoil of leaving home for pastures new is also compounded by the lack of infrastructure and organisation when migrants arrive at their destination. Waiting times are a common theme voiced by the migrants. Pedro Salgado spoke of a 6 km (3.8 mi) long queue just to cross the Brazilian border and, after the arduous journey, he will likely be forced to join thousands of others in search of food and shelter. The lack of paid work back home in Venezuela is the breaking point for many. With the peso plummeting and the economy in dire straits, migrating to neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Colombia has become the only way out for many."We want to work. Look, we have to collect scraps left at the market to be able to eat. We don't have any money. So we have to search through the bins for food," explained Luiz Suarez, another migrant. He said the situation in his homeland is made all the worse by the fact that it is rich in mismanaged natural resources.Boa Vista has also seen a greater strain put on its healthcare facilities. Marcia Monteiro Marques, a technical director of gynecology at a local maternity hospital, spoke of the rising number of babies delivered to Venezuelan women at the facility. "We - in 2016 - had 12 births, now, every month, we have more than 60 women giving birth," she said. Speaking at the hospital, patient Belice Mairin lamented the state of healthcare provision in her home country. "In Venezuela right now it's impossible to get any medicine. That's what my family tells me, it's impossible to get anything," she said.Colonel Lupchinski, a media advisor for the Brazilian task force for the humanitarian emergency in Roraima, described how the dire situation has taken its toll on the city, with the infrastructure barely able to cope with the 500 daily arrivals in need of help."The deployment of humanitarian forces aims to improve this situation, because in the shelters we are providing, in cooperation with the UNHCR, security, food, health services and infrastructure, so that people have dignified living conditions," he explained.Venezuelans have flooded southwards to Brazil amid a weak job market back home. The country's economy has been unable to sustain itself in recent years due to plummeting global oil prices. Over 90 percent of Venezuelan export revenue relies on oil production, and a barrel cost upwards of $110 (€89) in the four years leading up to 2014; however, the price today hovers at around $70 (€57) and had more than halved from its highest point in the intervening period. There has also been a dramatic fall in Venezuelan oil production, with output dropping 13 percent last year alone. With the oil-rich nation also leaning heavily on international credit and being hit hard by sanctions implemented by the US and EU, socio-economic crisis has followed. Government mismanagement and a lack of internal investment have also been blamed for deepening the crisis. Hyperinflation resulting from the downturn means everyday prices have risen dramatically, leading to a shortage of jobs and amenities while, conversely, crime and poverty rates have rocketed. In the first quarter of this year alone, inflation rose 454 percent in Venezuela.The humanitarian fallout has now reached northern Brazil, where the UN and local government are struggling to raise enough money to meet the costs of tackling the crisis. It has also turned the lives of many Venezuelans upside down. For them, helping their relatives back home is a priority. Pedro Salgado summed up the predicament of many of his compatriots. "We love our families. We are looking for a future for them, and this is the only way," he said.

W/S Hospital corridor

W/S Hospital ward

C/U Belice Mairin, mother with baby at 'Nossa Senhora de Nazareth' Maternity Hospital, Sao Pedro neighbourhood, Boa Vista

M/S Women sits up in bed at hospital

SOT, Belice Mairin, mother with baby in hospital (Spanish): "Look, there is a big difference. In Venezuela right now it's impossible to get any medicine. That's what my family tells me, it's impossible to get anything. There's barely any food, and it's very expensive, the prices are too high. And there is barely any medicine and they're limited. There are no medicines."

M/S Hospital ward

W/S Hospital ward

SOT, Marcia Monteiro Marques, technical director of gynecology at the 'Nossa Senhora de Nazareth' Maternity Hospital (Portuguese): "In 2016, we had 12 Venezuelan women giving birth. Twelve births. In January, February, March, 2016, we had 12 women every month. In 2017, it rose to 20. In 2018, we have already had more than 60. So, we - in 2016 - had 12 births, now, every month, we have more than 60 women giving birth."

W/S Office at hospital

W/S Hospital exterior

M/S Flags of Venezuela and Brazil at border crossing

W/S Venezuela-Brazil border crossing, Pacaraima-Santa Elena de Uairen

W/S Flags

W/S Border crossing

M/S People at border crossing

W/S People at border crossing

W/S Cars at border

W/S People at border crossing

W/S People wait near border

W/S People wait near border

M/S Man waits with luggage near border

M/S Venezuelan migrants walking along road in Brazil, near border with Venezuela

M/S Venezuelan migrants walking along road

M/S Venezuelan migrants waiting along road

SOT, Pedro Salgado, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "We hope to find a good job, in order to help our families in Venezuela. We left our families, I left my mother, this man left his family there. We are looking for a future for them, to be able to help them, this is the only way. After all, the Venezuelan currency doesn't have any value anymore."

M/S Venezuelan migrants waiting along road *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Pedro Salgado, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "We have gotten queues, queues, queues. It has been really difficult. One single queue was five or six km long yesterday, to cross [the border]. After that we have been sleeping in the open, on the streets."

M/S Venezuelan migrants waiting under tree *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Pedro Salgado, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "You arrive to the hospital [in Venezuela] and it looks like, I don't know, like it was a Syrian hospital. The patients are lying around on the ground, on stretchers, children who are malnourished, families who are living on the street. Even in the capital there are people who are searching through the bins looking for food."

M/S Man along road in Brazil

W/S Statue at Simon Bolivar Square, Boa Vista

W/S Tents at Simon Bolivar Square

M/S Tents at Simon Bolivar Square

M/S People sitting near Simon Bolivar Square

SOT, Luiz Suarez, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "We don't want to be given food, nothing like that. We want to work. Look, we have to collect scraps left at the market to be able to eat. We don't have any money. So we have to search through the bins for food. Look at the conditions we are living in, all of this part here. We are waiting for someone to offer us help, because we are having a rough time. Not just me, a lot of people. Everybody who is here is in need. Unfortunately the situation in my country is very critical. Venezuela is a beautiful country with a lot of natural resources, but unfortunately, I don't know what is happening."

W/S Tents at Simon Bolivar Square

W/S Tent at Simon Bolivar Square

M/S Tents at Simon Bolivar Square

M/S Tent at Simon Bolivar Square

W/S Tents at Simon Bolivar Square

M/S Stand at Stadium Tancredo Neves, Boa Vista

W/S Tents on pitch

M/S Tent on pitch

M/S Tent on pitch

SOT, Rosa Gonzales, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "It is very unfortunate to have to go so far away, to a city we don't know. We have family waiting for us, and unfortunately we cannot go back yet. At least I have mother and my two children waiting for me and for me it is very hard, but I have to go through with it because we cannot do anything else. We're here now. Going back to Venezuela would be worse, because we wouldn't have any resources there. We have to accept it and, because we fled the country, we have to ace what's coming at us, fight and continue fighting."

M/S Tent on pitch

M/S Man sleeping on stand

W/S People queuing at stadium

M/S People queuing at stadium

SOT, Colonel Lupchinski, media advisor for the Brazilian task force for the Humanitarian emergency in Roraima (Portuguese): "Around 500 people are crossing the border every day. Of those, around 20 seek refuge, while the rest apply for a temporary residence permit or claim to be tourists."

M/S People queuing for food at stadium

M/S People queuing for food at stadium

SOT, Colonel Lupchinski, media advisor for the Brazilian task force for the Humanitarian emergency in Roraima (Portuguese): "The rise in the number of people and in those without shelter is taking its toll on the city. There are more queues at the hospitals, many people on the streets, and there is a rise in public security issues. The deployment of humanitarian forces aims to improve this situation, because in the shelters we are providing, in cooperation with the UNHCR, security, food, health services and infrastructure, so that people have dignified living conditions."

M/S People eating food at stadium

W/S People queuing for food at stadium

W/S Score sign

M/S People living rough outside stadium

M/S People living rough outside stadium

M/S People living rough outside stadium

M/S People living rough outside stadium

M/S People living rough outside stadium

W/S Tents at UNHCR camp, Boa Vista

W/S Tent at UNHCR camp

SOT, Hector Palomo, Venezuelan migrant (Spanish): "I have children in Venezuela. I have 12 children in total, and I would like to bring all of them. Not to a shelter, but to a home, where they have stability and they feel comfortable, where I have a job, where I can tell my children 'do you want to eat this? Eat it.'"

M/S Tent at UNHCR camp

M/S UNHCR camp tents

M/S Boy playing at UNHCR camp

W/S Tents

M/S People eating at UNHCR camp

W/S People washing belongings

M/S UNHCR camp

M/S People at UNHCR camp

W/S Tents

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