• 08 October 2013

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    Category : Opinion

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    The case of immigration in Brazil

    The establishment of inclusive strategies and creation of opportunities for all migrants to achieve a sustainable balance between cultural identity and full social integration is necessarily based on respect for human rights, non-criminalisation of illegal aliens, and prioritisation of empowerment factors for migrants.

    The tragedy that occurred half a mile off the coast of the Island of Lampedusa on October 3rd created an immediate collective feeling of solidarity with the families of the more than 200 victims. Tragedies like these reiterate the need to publicly reflect on the humane aspects of current migratory flows.

    In the case of Brazil, this exercise involves the government, various social segments (especially migrants), transnational social networks, and international organisations. The exercise consists of bringing about institutional, symbolic and material changes, in three dimensions.

    The first challenge involves updating national immigration laws, internalising international treaties and agreements, and coordinating administrative regulations. These are key elements for establishing a legal and political culture of non-discrimination, effective protection of rights, and preventing the violation of these rights. This entails overcoming the “rights deficit,” which was a result of Brazil’s various consecutive authoritarian regimes during the 20th century. These regimes portrayed immigrants as the enemy of national security and of economic and employment protection mechanisms, the consequences of which survived re-democratisation.

    The second challenge is to overcome the “deficit of coordination and governance” by establishing coordination mechanisms between the migratory institutions and the three levels of government in such an enormous country. It also involves the definition of institutional responsibilities to facilitate the integration of immigrants in economic, social, cultural, and productive aspects.

    These two dimensions must be considered collectively as part of the commitment to be inclusive with illegal alien groups in a non-incriminating way, either by creating measures of specific services for children and women, as well as in terms of sexual diversity and gender identity.

    The third dimension proposes a commitment to listening, participation and social supervision of the processes of creating and updating policies and programmes for migrants living in Brazil. The participation of civil society and the migrants’ voice and empowerment is essential for this commitment. This responds to a “deficit of social participation,” which will take shape with the First National Conference on Migration and Refugees in 2014. This conference offers a structured process of listening, analysis and social consultation open to the country’s migrants.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the demographics of Brazil’s population constituted nearly 10% integration for recent immigrants, as compared to the 2013 figure, which is barely 0.06% after decades of the authoritarian regimes’ efforts to restrict immigration.
    There are now signs of, and the recognition of the strategic need for, Brazil’s to welcoming immigrants again. This is a reflection of the social plurality and cultural vibrancy which is at the root of Brazil’s development conditions.

    The institutional contribution to this complex debate is to finally recognise that Brazil’s role of receiving immigration and its development are bound up with the country’s commitments to social justice and the participation of anyone seeking refuge there. This is accomplished through the creation of additional cooperation strategies with the countries of origin and transit countries, enhancing regional integration processes and negotiation in international locations and forums.

    Joao Guilherme Granja
    Director of the “Foreign Department” (immigration, citizenship and refugees) at the Ministry of Justice in Brazil

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.