Why the Brazilians Have Opened Their Doors to the Syrians


In recent weeks, Syrian refugees have become headline news in the press internationally after the image of a dead Syrian boy on a beach became a symbol of the difficulty facing these refugees. The war in Syria has forced 4million people to flee to other countries. Brazil is a pioneer in humanitarianism, welcoming the migrants and making it the main destination for Syrian refugees in the Americas.  According to the Brazilian government, 2,077 Syrians received refugee status from 2011 until August this year. This number is considerably higher than the United States (1243) and other countries in Europe, namely Greece (1,275), Spain (1,335), Italy (1,005) and Portugal (15).

One reason for the demand of Brazil as an asylum destination is the family roots. An estimated three million Brazilians have Syrian descent, mainly due to a wave of immigration that occurred in the early 20th century. Also in Brazil, unlike other countries, while waiting for the appropriate visa status, refugees can work as well as access health and education.  But the Syrian refugees face many other difficulties; language and cultural differences and the bureaucratic process which could be significantly faster.

Most Syrians are helped by charities, which can assist with the necessary documentation to stay in Brazil, but these same charities cannot afford to give food and shelter. Jobhunting in a country suffering in a recession is also not easy. Yet, even with all these difficulties, the Brazilian government position of “open arms” for refugees was praised by the UN.

Countries around the world are planning to host Syrian refugees. The US government will receive 10,000 Syrians which is even smaller than that of Australia, which plans to receive 12,000 refugees. Europe has not yet reached an agreement on the plan to distribute the 160,000 currently hosted in Greece, Hungary and Italy.

The UN refugee agency has in its Brazilian site a page for donations to families living in this situation; you can access it here. To access the page for donation to refugees around the world, visit this page.


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Pablo Mingoti

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