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.

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