Looking for better living conditions and fleeing crisis in their country, thousands of Venezuelans are emigrating to Brazil in growing numbers.
In Roraima alone—a Brazilian state that shares a border with Venezuela—there are about 15,000 Venezuelans, according to the Ministry of Justice.
At least 4,000 of these economic migrants applied for asylum in Brazil last year. As a result, the number of Venezuelan refugee applications to Brazil rose by 3,000% compared to 2015.
The migration is more prevalent in border areas. Roraima has already declared an emergency situation in healthcare because of an unexpected surge in migratory flows that has tightened pressure on public services.
According to Justice Secretary Gustavo Marrone, a worsening crisis in Venezuela has put Brazil on the alert for increasing migration, and the scenario is expected to worsen in 2017. “The migration flow actually slipped in the beginning of this year because Venezuela closed its borders, but we don't expect this trend to continue in the first months. In fact, we expect flows to increase,” Marrone said.
If the trend is confirmed, Roraima will need federal aid, according to the coordinator of the Integrated Migration Management Office, Colonel Edivaldo Cláudio Amaral. “Roraima state is not ready to handle this. It's a very difficult situation.”
The state was compelled to declare a health emergency in December, and the local government says it is unable to handle the demand for medical appointments, hospitalizations, and medicines for Brazilians and Venezuelans.
At the Roraima General Hospital's emergency room, for example, the number of foreign patients rose 380% in the last two years, jumping from 320 in 2014 to 1,240 in 2016.
The hospitalization rates for Venezuelans in Brazil is higher than that of Brazilians—five in every 100 Brazilians are hospitalized, compared to 13 out of every 100 Venezuelans.
Looking for opportunities
Immigrants are not just people living in poverty. Many of them have professional qualifications and, in addition to a life change, they are looking for new work opportunities. This is the case of the Venezuelan advertising creative Jéssica de Souza, whose concerns about the future led her to leave everything she was used to behind to try a new life in Brazil. She says the job market back in her home country is going through “a very difficult period” with few job opportunities.
Translated by Mayra Borges