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UNHCR welcomes Brazilian residency for Angolan and Liberian refugees

Briefing Notes, 9 November 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 9 November 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency welcomes a decision by the Brazilian government to grant permanent residency to nearly 2000 former Angolan and Liberian refugees. Brazils Ministry of Justice issued a decree on October 26 confirming the new status for this group.

The measure was adopted by the Brazilian migration authorities following a global UNHCR recommendation in January this year, asking states to apply the cessation clauses on the two refugee situations and recommending countries of asylum to pursue local integration or an alternative status for former refugees.

Brazil is the first country in Latin America and outside of the African region to adopt UNHCRs recommendations. Current statistics provided by the Brazilian government, suggest that the decision will affect 1,681 Angolan and 271 Liberian refugees, representing almost 40 percent of the refugee population in Brazil. The country hosts around 4,600 recognized refugees, including the Angolan and Liberians. The main other refugee populations are from Colombia (700) and DRC (497).

According to the decree, Angolan and Liberian refugees will have 90 days after being notified by the Government to contact the Federal Police Department and request their permanent resident visa. Refugees must comply with at least one of four conditions: be living in Brazil as recognized refugees over the last 4 years; be hired by any private or public company registered with the Ministry of Labour; be a qualified worker with formally recognized expertise; or run his/her own business established in accordance with the national legislation. The possibility of acquiring permanent resident status will not apply to refugees convicted of any criminal offense.

Angolan and Liberian refugees are largely integrated into Brazilian society mostly in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Many are married to locals and have Brazilian children. UNHCR believes that the majority of the former Angolan and Liberian refugee population will meet the governments requirements to remain in Brazil.

Most Angolan and Liberian refugees living in Brazil arrived in the country during the 90's, fleeing internal civil conflicts that displaced millions of persons. In Angola, more than 40 years (1961-2002) of armed conflict displaced over four million nationals internally and forced another 600,000 into exile. In the case of Liberia, two civil conflicts (from 1989 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2003) created thousands of refugees. Both conflicts came to an end with the signature of peace agreements involving different actors and stakeholders.

Most asylum seekers originating from West and Central African countries reach Brazil by plane, with a small number from West Africa travelling by boat. Others, from the East and Horn of Africa, as well as from Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh normally fly to Dubai, via Panama, and then to Ecuador, before reaching Brazil.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Brasilia, Luiz Fernando Godinho on mobile +5561 8187 0978
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106
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UNHCR country pages

Local Integration

Integration of refugees in the host community allows recipients to live in dignity and peace.

Integration Initiatives: Supporting Next Steps

An inventory of opportunities and needs in the integration of resettled refugees

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

On July 21, 2004, the final UNHCR convoy from Liberia crossed over the Mano River bridge into Sierra Leone with 286 returnees. This convoy included the last of some 280,000 refugees returning home after Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2000. Overall, since repatriation began in 2001, UNHCR has helped some 178,000 refugees return home, with a further 92,000 returning spontaneously, without transport assistance from UNHCR.

UNHCR provided returnees with food rations and various non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and agricultural tools in order to help them establish their new lives in communities of origin. To promote integration of newly arrived returnees, UNHCR has implemented some 1,000 community empowerment projects nationwide. Programmes include the building and rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, as well as micro-credit schemes and skills training.

UNHCR and its partners, alongside the UN country team and the government, will continue to assist the reintegration of returnees through the end of 2005.

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

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