GLO.ACT supports the Public Defender's Office in Brazil to provide legal assistance to vulnerable migrants from Venezuela

 

Legal Assistance to Venezuelan MigrantsRoraima, Brazil - 6 November 2017 - From 23-27 October 2017, GLO.ACT supported the Federal Public Defender's Office  (DPU) in delivering its mobile assistance Itinerant DPU programme. The Itinerant DPU aims to reach those living in risky and remote areas that do not have access to legal assistance. The DPU is responsible for providing full legal representation, free of charge, to those who cannot afford legal services, especially the vulnerable. Its role is also to defend the most vulnerable from violations perpetrated by the State.

As the cities of Boa Vista and Pacaraima in the State of Roraima have seen a major influx of migrants coming from Venezuela, Itinerant DPU focuses its efforts here. In 2017, according to international NGOs and UN agencies, the political, economic and social crisis in the country has led to over 30,000 Venezuelan nationals crossing the border into Brazil. However, those arriving face harsh realities as the authorities in Brazil are struggling to meet the urgent needs of Venezuelans. A former gymnasium serves as the only shelter in the city of Boa Vista to house the nearly 600 migrants, which includes indigenous and non-indigenous population. This shelter is already operating at maximum capacity and barely able provide for the basic needs of the migrants. At the same time, the streets of Boa Vista have become the home for entire families. The bus station in Boa Vista looks like a camp where children sleep night after night. Desperate to provide an income for their families, migrants hold up signs offering their labour, with some women becoming vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Legal Assistance to Venezuelan MigrantsOn the first day of the visit and with the support of IOM, UNHCR and GLO.ACT's National Programme Officer, the Itinerant DPU team provided legal assistance to migrants in the shelter of Boa Vista. On the second day, legal assistance was provided to migrants at the Boa Vista bus station and at a pastoral center in the city of Pacaraima. The interview sessions with the DPU team enabled migrants to tell their stories and explain the challenges they face.

Victim Testimonies

One migrant belonging to the Warao (an indigenous people inhabiting northeastern Venezuela) recounted how he and a few of his companions had been approached by a rancher who offered them a job on his plantation, promising wages of BRL 1000 for a month's work. Agreeing to the terms, they boarded a truck that took them six hours away from Boa Vista to a remote region of the state. Once there, they were made to work the entire day on the plantation. They had no access to bathrooms and had to drink water from a nearby stream. These Venezuelan migrants were fed only flour and a cup of coffee for breakfast and a bowl of rice for lunch and dinner. They were kept isolated from other plantation workers. After a month of work, they were transported back to Boa Vista. Upon being dropped off, they were payed only half of the agreed amount. The rancher told them that the unpaid portion was deducted to cover the expenses incurred during their stay at the ranch. During the week of conducting interviews and providing legal assistance, migrants often repeated stories like this. Those who were interviewed recognized how their vulnerability made them susceptible to exploitation.

Legal Assistance to Venezuelan MigrantsThe week concluded with a two-day seminar entitled "Trafficking in Persons, Smuggling of Migrants and Human Mobility" attended by approximately 100 representatives from government and civil society. During the opening of the seminar, Mr. Carlos Eduardo Paz, Federal Public Defender of the Union, reaffirmed the DPU's commitment to defending the rights of the most vulnerable, including migrants.

 

 

The aims of the seminar were:

  • To raise awareness on TIP and SOM amongst key local stakeholders;
  • To enhance awareness on the rights of migrants;
  • To obtaining government buy-in guaranteeing the rights of migrants; and
  • To raise awareness about the government's responsibility with regards to vulnerable migrants.

Legal Assistance to Venezuelan MigrantsThe Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.

 

External links:

Venezuela migrants prey to forced labour, abuse in Brazil

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Fernanda Patricia Fuentes Munoz

National Project Officer

Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil

fernanda.fuentes@unodc.org

 

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/glo-act/

Email: glo.act@un.org

Twitter:  @glo_act