Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2017, 14:54 GMT

World Refugee Survey 2008 - Brazil

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, World Refugee Survey 2008 - Brazil, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 17 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BRA figures


In addition to roughly 17,500 de facto Colombian refugees in its Amazon region, Brazil hosted around 3,460 registered refugees from 70 countries. Around 80 percent of them, one fourth of them women, were from African countries including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia. Brazil also resettled 117 Palestinian refugees from Iraq, whom Jordan confined to Al Ruweished camp on the border between Iraq and Jordan for four years.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reports of refoulement or deportation of refugees or asylum seekers to third countries, nor were refugees killed or endangered.

Brazil was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (1984 Cartagena Declaration). Drafted with the assistance of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Brazil's 1997 Refugee Law incorporated the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, which allowed for refugee status based on generalized violence in addition to the 1951 Convention definition. Following its ratification of international agreements pertaining to refugees, Brazil's Justice Ministry created the Comitê Nacional para os Refugiados (CONARE), the national refugee agency. In 2004, Brazil signed the Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action to Strengthen International Protection of Refugees in Latin America (2004 Mexico Plan).

Asylum seekers could access the refugee status determination (RSD) process by approaching border authorities, at which point officials would submit their declarations to CONARE for assessment. Representatives of several Government ministries made RSD decisions, with UNHCR participating but not able to vote. The 1997 Refugee Law included an appeals procedure for rejected applicants, over which the Minister of Justice had the final say. Asylum seekers had access to legal counsel, generally provided by public attorneys and bar associations.

Unrecognized Colombian refugees, who far outnumbered recognized refugees, lacked full access to protection facilities and to the RSD process because most settled in remote Amazon areas. UNHCR attributed this to local officials' unfamiliarity with refugee rights and to a minimal UNHCR presence in the Amazon region. Brazil recognized only 452 Colombians as refugees, considering the remainder migrants. Between 2005 and July 2007, Brazil granted refugee status to 106 trafficked individuals and 123 victims of gender-related persecution from Colombia. As part of its implementation of the 2004 Mexico Plan's Solidarity Reception Program, Brazil resettled 200 refugees during the year. Refugees had to pay fees to obtain permanent residence and citizenship; often, there were delays in the process.

Detention/Access to Courts

Some foreigners sought asylum after Brazil charged or detained them for entry on false documents. Asylum seekers detained on criminal charges had access to counsel.

Asylum seekers received documents affirming their right to stay in Brazil while authorities assessed their claims. Recognized refugees received identity cards, like all other foreigners residing legally in the country.

In São Paolo and the Amazon, refugees experienced delays in receiving identity cards. Authorities accepted refugees' documents, although refugees had difficulties dealing with private sector employers and other agencies.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Brazil did not maintain camps for refugees, who were free to move around the country and settle where they chose, but had to inform authorities of address changes. Most refugees settled in urban areas.

Refugees wishing to travel internationally had to apply to CONARE, specifying dates of travel and their ability to pay. Upon approval, they received a passport from the Federal Police, which authorities retained upon return to Brazil.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The 1997 Refugee Law granted refugees' right to work, but refugees had to obtain the same work permits required of nationals and other foreigners for formal employment. Entry to certain professions, including medicine, law, and engineering, depended on professional prerequisites that refugees did not always have, such as valid credentials and language proficiency.

Refugees working in the informal sector as street vendors had difficulty in gaining access, and some complained of exploitation in the workplace. Those registered as artisans were exempt from taxes.

Refugees had the same labor rights as citizens and could qualify for social security benefits. Refugees holding the appropriate licenses could engage in business, but not in those fields barred to foreigners, such as mining, the media, and national transportation. They could hold bank accounts and own property.

Upon UNHCR urging, authorities removed the word "refugee" from work permits, which had confused some employers and prevented them from hiring refugees. Delays in receiving identity documents in the Amazon and São Paolo made it difficult for refugees to access credit.

Public Relief and Education

Brazil provided resettled refugees with assistance during their first six months to help them integrate. Refugees had access to Brazil's health, education, and skills training services.

Refugees in the Amazon region, however, lacked access to public health services. Refugees could also receive grants for needy families (Bolsa Familia) administered through local governments. Preschool-aged children had the same rights as nationals to public childcare facilities, and refugee children and adolescents could freely enroll in public schools, although some refugees in the Amazon region reported difficulty with access to schools.

UNHCR, through partner agencies, offered skills training, childcare, and counseling services to single refugee women with children. Around 45 refugee families, in addition to local and migrant families, benefited from a credit scheme sponsored by UNHCR and the private sector.

Brazil provided 70 percent of refugees and asylum seekers with information about the asylum system and their rights.

UNHCR assisted in the preparation of the UN Development Assistance Framework for Brazil for 2007-11, which included refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and other persons of concern to UNHCR. While Brazil did not exclude refugees from its poverty reduction strategies, refugee access to those strategies varied depending on the local government. The Ministry of Social Development was implementing a plan to ensure complete universal access to its programs.

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