Brazil: Venezuelans In ‘Extreme Vulnerability’ Met With Closed Doors

Brazil has reopened its border with Venezuela in response to a ruling from the Brazilian Supreme Court. The northeastern land border in the Brazilian state of Roraima shut its doors to Venezuelan refugees fleeing economic and political turmoil, BBC News reported Tuesday 7 August. Judge Barreto ruled closure until conditions for “humanitarian reception” were met, reported The Guardian. The ruling permitted only non-Venezuelans entry by land, but air and sea crossings remained open to all. Brazil’s social services are struggling to cope with the massive influx of migrants fleeing the Venezuelan crisis; authorities estimate 500 Venezuelans make the crossing daily.

Brazil’s Public Defence Office quickly appealed Barreto’s closure, citing “extreme vulnerability” of Venezuelan migrants. Supreme Court Justice Rosa Webber agreed, overturning Barreto’s closure. She stated “it is not justified to take the easy path to ‘close the doors’ because of difficulties in hosting refugees.” Roraima governor Suely Campos applauded the border closure, as authorities had been calling for a ban on Venezuelan migrants for months. “[We] are dealing with a social tragedy,” stated Campos. She had previously appealed to the Brazilian government to close the border and offer greater support for public services, requesting a $49 million reimbursement of her administration’s spending on migrants. “There is no point in welcoming Venezuelan immigrants if they are going to be subjected to equal or more degrading conditions here,” Judge Barreto stated.

While Brazil is adequately supporting its regions that have been accepting migrants, turning away vulnerable people is an unacceptable insult to the sanctity of human life. Activists have referred to the closure as “absurd.” Venezuelans are “seeking refuge because of [a] vulnerable situation,” Sister Lage from the Migration and Human Rights Institute told The Guardian. It is a complex situation when bordering states become overwhelmed with mass migration and overstretched resources. Brazil isn’t the only country to have lost their humanity in the face of humanitarian emergencies. Countries across Europe have closed their borders in response to refugee crises. To the criticism of the international community, Australia has long employed ‘push back’ methods and offshore processing. But, while countries reserve the right to sovereignty over their borders in the face of mass migration, condemning migrants to remain in a daily struggle against deplorable conditions is a gross violation of human rights. “In Venezuela, you don’t live, you survive,” Venezuelan business owner William Camero told the BBC.

Venezuelans are fleeing increasingly crippling economic conditions, comparable to Germany in the 1920s. The International Monetary Fund predicts one million percent inflation rate by the end of the year. Hyperinflation and ensuing widespread hunger ignited social and political unrest. Violent protests left 2000 injured and 124 dead last year alone, and there was a recent assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Since 2015, over 56,000 Venezuelans have entered Brazil. This year alone, Roraima received 6,438 applications for asylum. But migrants arrive to overstretched public services and rising violent crime. 25,000 Venezuelans have made the state capital their home, and healthcare services are strained by 6,500%.

Venezuela’s future is extremely volatile. Many predict complete collapse. Economic mismanagement, corruption, and oppression are leading the oil-rich nation towards destruction. The Corruption Percentage Index puts Venezuela at 169 out of 180 countries. Some are calling for a military coup. Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump advocated for a radical intervention. A solution must be sought that both addresses humanitarian concerns and ends Maduro’s rule. However, the situation is such that even if President Maduro were to relinquish political control, experts say little would change. It seems that for now, the Venezuelan crisis will only deepen.