At dawn, Euclimar G., her husband Josfenix, and their two-year-old son Dylan took a cross-border road hoping they could take advantage of it and arrive before the scorching heat of the northern Brazilian savannah began to set in.
“Life in Venezuela had become very difficult and we felt the need to come to this place,” says 24-year-old Euclimar amid the noise, crowds and lines of people in Pacaraima, a northern Brazilian city just on the border with Venezuela and which is the main point of access to Brazil for thousands of migrants.
At the end of their arduous and extensive cross-border trips, Euclimar and other Venezuelans are received at the Reception and Support Post of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Pacaraima.
The center offers overnight accommodation, food, protection and hygiene services for migrants and refugees who have just arrived in Brazil, and also for those who are waiting for civil documentation and cannot stay in a shelter for an extended period.
Operação Acolhida or Operación Acogida is the humanitarian response and reception provided by the Federal Government of Brazil in Roraima, one of the least populated and least developed states in Brazil, in response to a historic influx of migrants and refugees who have been arriving from Venezuela. since 2017. The operation has been recognized as a model for the entire region.
Some 800,000 Venezuelans in Brazil
More than 800,000 Venezuelans have crossed into Brazil through the northern border in recent years, seeking care, food and new opportunities.
Operation Reception has three pillars:
- Border management, which provides refugees and migrants with reception, identification, documentation, basic medical care and immunization services
- Accommodation in border cities, including food, education, health and social protection
- Voluntary relocation to other areas of Brazil where they have greater economic and integration opportunities.
Euclimar’s family is crossing the border for the second time. Despite the uncertain future and with no money in their pockets, they have a renewed hope of being able to start their lives over again in Boa Vista, the capital of the State of Roraima.
“We are doing it for my son, to give him a better quality of life,” she says, as she lines up with hundreds of Venezuelans who have just arrived at the border.
At the end of the day in Pacaraima, a long line outside the Reception and Support Post stretches past the fence and around the corner as 450 people come seeking reassurance. Every day, a bed, a shower, food and psychosocial support are offered to migrants and refugees on the move.
Dianora L., 44, is traveling from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with her daughter with special needs, her two teenage sons and her 60-year-old mother. The family heads to Brasilia to meet Dianora’s husband, the father of her children, who has been working there for five years.
“It was quite a challenge to leave my country, but I am very grateful to have the opportunity to come to Brazil and be able to reunite with my husband,” she explains with tears in her eyes. “Above all things we are looking for the possibility of starting over. And to be able to provide a better future for our children.”
It’s worth it if there’s a better future
Under the scorching afternoon sun, Daniel Q., 44, and his son Jordanis, 11, kill time playing dominoes at the Post. Despite having left loved ones behind, what prompted them to migrate was a strong sense of hope. Daniel wants to meet his older brother in Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, where there is a decent job waiting for him.
“It has been hard for us to leave our country, but I think it will be worth it if I can give my son a good future and if I can also send some money to those who have remained there,” says this former fisherman from Venezuela.
Timely assistance undoubtedly makes a difference for hundreds of people who arrive at the border every day, explains Priscila Leite, field coordinator for the UN agency in Pacaraima.
“IOM is working together with the Government of Brazil’s Operation Reception in all instances of the response, from the information provided at the points of arrival, to medical and psychosocial support, overnight accommodation and voluntary internal relocation. We have already helped hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to rebuild their lives with dignity here in Brazil.”
Jose R. and his son Pedro live in a shack in Vila Esperança, that is, in Pueblo Esperanza, which is a settlement established spontaneously by migrants and refugees from Venezuela in Pacaraima.
“At least for now, a day’s work gives us enough to eatand even send some money to our housessays Pedro as he cooks beans and rice for lunch. They arrived in Brazil five years ago.
More than 155 people live in this informal and precarious settlement located in the border city of Pacaraima, where shacks built with recycled wood, scrap metal and mud have been erected.
In total, the city has 15 spontaneous settlements throughout the territory, where based on the sense of community, migrants and refugees gain value by interacting and living more independently, making their own decisions. Almost all of the Venezuelan residents in these places are unemployed and dependent on humanitarian aid and government benefits. The International Organization for Migration regularly provides medical and psychological support as well as legal assistance.
Regina L., who previously worked as a teacher and had to leave her job in Venezuela because the salary was insufficient, explains what her plans are to improve her situation in the future.
“What was my biggest dream? See my children with a better future; I hope my teenage daughter Laura can study dentistry”.
Regina has opened a community center for migrant minors in Pueblo Esperanza.
As they try to persevere, hope and rebuild their lives in their new surroundings, Venezuelans are attentive to the news coming from their places of origin, mainly through WhatsApp messages and phone calls from those who stayed behind.
Jose R. left four children in Venezuela and his greatest hope is to be able to meet them and have them close.
“We communicate by WhatsApp daily and I can’t wait to have them here with me,” he says very excited, looking at the last photo they sent him.
This report was produced by Gema Cortés, IOM Press Unit, Office of the Special Envoy for the Regional Response to the Situation in Venezuela.