Although immigrants and refugees are different concepts, with different approaches, and the last have their own status in Brazil, it is still considered a migrant and its condition will be influenced by the recently sanctioned legislation

Text: Stéfanie Rigamonti

A few weeks ago, the Brazilian president approved the new Migration Law (No. 13.445 / 2017), which, after passing through the Senate, through the PLS 288/2013, and to be the fruit of demands and discussions between The civil society, suffered, arbitrarily, by the federal government, 20 vetoes to important points.

The text delimits groups that are covered by legislation – immigrants, migrants, border residents, visitors and stateless persons – and ratifies that the specific norms for refugees in Brazil will not be prejudiced. However, between its articles, it makes several allusions to the refugees, and at the same time distinguishes the latter from the other immigrants, providing different conditions to each one, sometimes treating them equally, and it is possible to foresee that in some way they will be affected by their norms.

According to the lawyer and representative of the NGO Bibli-ASPA – which serves hundreds of refugees and immigrants – Adriane Secco, specialist in Constitutional Law by PUC-SP and active in human rights and immigration since 2013, the separation of concepts between immigration and refuge is necessary so that the State and the society provide the reception and the documentation according to each case.

“The refugee has serious risks to his physical and mental integrity if he returns to the country of origin without his situation being appeased. In this way, it seeks not only social assistance, but the protection of a state that guarantees fundamental rights of survival, ” she explains.

On the other hand, the professional also understands that, although there are different concepts and documentation, both the immigrant and the refugee are people who migrate and, in practice, there must be equality between them in terms of access to basic services, such as health and education.

According to the lawyer and also a representative of the Bibli-ASPA, Elissa Macedo Fortunato, an USP student on Public Policies for the Integration of Refugees, “in general, the Refugee Statute focuses on the characterization of the refuge and the procedure of documentation, while the Migration Law provides humanitarian principles and provides rights and duties to migrants; Thus, it will eventually be applicable in a complementary way to the refuge, ” she explains.

That is, in several cases not covered by the Refugee Statute, the Migration Law will be applied, since it legislates on the condition of foreigners in general.

Therefore, the law itself, which represents a breakthrough and meets international and national humanitarian efforts, will benefit refugees in many ways, but some points vetoed by the presidency will also harm them. Therefore, given their increasing presence in Brazil, the discussion about the pros and cons of the new law as it has been sanctioned, and how it will affect them, is valid.

Positive and negative points

Adriane Secco comments that, with the sanction, there was the implementation, in law, of what were once only matters of regulations and sparse norms, such as humanitarian visas, in addition to the extension of temporary visas and family reunions.

An important point that will be beneficial to migrants in general is the guarantee of participation and citizen public manifestation, previously repressed by the Foreign Statute, created during the Military Dictatorship in Brazil, with objectives that were in line with the political scenario of the period, and in several aspects, criminalized foreigners and bureaucratized excessively the processes for documents emission.

Another highlight is the guarantee of access to free legal aid, with the mandatory action of the Public Defender in cases of detention of migrants at the borders. There are many refugees who enter the country in a non-formalized and official manner, such as on freighter ships, and sometimes they are temporarily arrested.

In such cases, the Public Defender’s Office is now obliged to act for effecting refuge request to competent authorities, and, according to the existing Refugee Statute, “in no case shall deportation be effected to the frontier of territory in which his life or freedom Is threatened by race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion “(article 7, paragraph 1).

But lawyer Adriane Secco also warned that although the new law was the result of hard work by social movements and civil society, which not only represented the interests of foreigners, but also charged speed and transparency throughout the process, following step by step, the votes – the 20 vetoes meant a loss for the strengthening of the legal structure aimed at migrants in general

She highlights the vetoes that most marked the setback in terms of human rights and fundamental guarantees, which will harm refugees in Brazil. One of them is the exclusion of the possibility of the migrant being approved in public offices.

In addition, indigenous people who circulate between their borders in South America and who often suffer persecution and bad-treatment would be considered vulnerable migrants in Brazil, according to the Law Project of the Senate (PLS), but this proposal was also vetoed.

She doesn`t mention refugees directly, but speaks about people who are in constant vulnerability in their home territories.

Continuity of work

In view of the above, Adriane Secco believes that, even with positive and negative points, there is much to change. “The law is not totally in line with the reality and needs of migrants, the government is still inefficient to act on these issues and the majority of society is oblivious to all this with misinformation about migration,” she says.

“The lack of knowledge about what is happening in the world of migration is one of the causes of xenophobia. Misleading information circulating, especially on social networks, can be devastating in building public policies and legislative changes, for example. The notion of citizenship is still very small for this part of the population that is unaware of the seriousness of their verbal and physical acts, contributing to a criminalization of the migrant. ”

For this, it is fundamental the participation of the Public Power in actions of conscientization that cooperate for the formation of a society less prejudiced and more welcoming.

The general director of Bibli-ASPA and professor of African and Arab studies at the University of São Paulo (USP), Paulo Farah, also stands on the issue: “The new Migration Law is a breakthrough in relation to the Foreign Statute. But unfortunately, there were 20 vetoes, several points were not contemplated and the migratory structure remains the same. This issue needs to be further discussed, as well as the problem of amnesty, which has not entered. It is important that entities and the population concerned with human rights form an alliance to broaden the debate and improve this issue. Bibli-ASPA has participated in the debate from the outset and retains its full interest in the subject. “

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