UNHCR welcomes Brazilian residency for Angolan and Liberian refugees

News Stories, 9 November 2012

© UNHCR/G.Gutarra
A refugee band from Angola plays a concert in Brazil. The Angolans have assimilated well.

BRASILIA, Brazil, November 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday welcomed Brazil's recent decision to grant permanent residency to nearly 2,000 former Angolan and Liberian refugees. Brazil's 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 Africa region to adopt UNHCR's recommendations. Brazilian government statistics suggest the decision will affect 1,681 Angolan and 271 Liberian refugees, representing almost 40 per cent 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 Democratic Republic of the Congo (497).

According to the decree, Angolan and Liberian refugees will have 90 days after being notified by the government to contact the police 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 four 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 legally established business. The possibility of acquiring permanent resident status will not apply to refugees convicted of any criminal offence.

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 most of the Angolans and Liberians will meet the government's requirements to remain in Brazil.

Most Angolan and Liberian refugees living in Brazil arrived during the 1990's, fleeing internal civil conflicts. In Angola, conflict from 1961 to 2002 displaced more than 4 million nationals internally and forced another 600,000 into exile. In the case of Liberia, two civil conflicts (from 1989-1996 and from 1999-2003) created tens of thousands of refugees.

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.




UNHCR country pages

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Antonio has been waiting 40 years to return to his home village in northern Angola. He fled to Democratic Republic of the Congo when the country was a Portuguese colony, and stayed away through years of civil war and during the peace that followed in 2002. Now, no longer classed as a refugee, he is finally going back.

Seated in a rickety chair in his family's rented apartment in Kinshasa on the eve of his departure, the 66-year-old Angolan was excited. "I feel joy when I think that I will go home. It's better to be a citizen of your own country than a refugee in another country. It's liberation," he said, flanked by his wife, sister and granddaughter.

Photographer Brian Sokol followed the four of them as they began their journey in Kinshasa on August 19, taking a seven-hour train journey to the town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province and then reaching the border by bus. They were among the first group to go back home with the help of UNHCR under a third and final voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. The family faces many new challenges in Angola, but their joy was far greater than any apprehension. "I will dance when we arrive at the border," said Antonio's sister, Maria. UNHCR is organizing the return of nearly 30,000 former refugees to Angola.

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Assessing Refugee Needs in Brazil

UNHCR staff have been visiting and talking to urban refugees around Brazil to assess their protection needs of refugees and other people of concern. The refugee agency, working with local partners, carries out a three-week Participatory Assessment every year. UNHCR uses an age, gender and diversity approach during the exercise. This means also talking to minority and vulnerable groups, including women, older people, those living with disability and more. The findings allow UNHCR to develop an appropriate protection response. This year's exercise was conducted in five cities - São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Rio Grande de Sul and Manaus. Refugees taking part said the assessment allowed them to share views, problems and solutions with UNHCR and others. Various stakeholders, including government officials, aid workers and academics, also participated.

Assessing Refugee Needs in Brazil

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

Almost Home Play video

Almost Home

Former Angolan refugees, in exile for as many as three decades, are given the opportunity to locally integrate in neighboring Zambia with the help of UNHCR and the Zambian Government.
Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.