GLO.ACT supports the provision of quality legal assistance to vulnerable migrants

GLO.ACT Brazil and DPU border mission 

Corumbá, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil -  15 July 2018 -  From 11 to 15 June 2018, the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants ( GLO.ACT) supported the Federal Public Defender's Office (DPU) in delivering its mobile assistance  Itinerant DPU programme in Corumbá, Mato Grosso do Sul. The task force consisted of three public defenders, a member of the NGO Missão Paz, a freelance human rights journalist, a member of the church working on providing pastoral care for migrants, and a member of the Brazilian Association for the Defense of Women, Children, and Youth. The Itinerant DPU aims to reach those living in risky and remote areas who 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.

GLO.ACT Brazil and DPU border mission

The city of Corumbá, located on the left bank of the Paraguay River at the border between Brazil and Bolivia, is one of the main gateways into Brazil via land. Interviews conducted with migrants as well as with authorities revealed a new migratory flow identified at this gateway. Since January 2018, the influx of Haitian nationals entering through Corumbá has been rising, with most of the migrants coming from Chile. There are several reasons as to why these migrants are on the move. These include a change in Chile's migration law since April 2018 requiring Haitian nationals to enter the country with visas, the downturn in the economy reducing employment opportunities, as well as the cold climate. Moreover, many explained during the interviews that they had family members or knew other Haitian nationals in Brazil. Haitian women and men use their savings to undertake the journey by land, exiting Chile through Iquique in the north, crossing through Bolivia, and entering Brazil through Corumbá with their final destination being São Paulo or Santa Catarina.

During the precarious journey, many of the migrants end up being subjected to extortion and abuse, with their human rights systematically violated by criminal networks that take advantage of vulnerabilities often associated with irregular migration. Their spare resources are depleted during the journey; many only speak Creole and therefore have difficulties communicating and being informed of their rights. Many are tricked and/or make use of 'coyotes' (smugglers) during their journeys.

GLO.ACT Brazil and DPU border missionThe aim of the Itinerant DPU programme in Corúmba therefore was to assess the situation of migrants at the border, provide legal assistance to foreigners detained in the city´s female and male prisons, assist vulnerable migrants, and run a seminar on trafficking in persons (TIP) and the smuggling of migrants (SOM) for the local network dedicated to the protection of migrants. The provision of legal assistance at the male and female prisons focused on migrants who are detained for entering the country with forged stamps in their documents and with the assistance of 'coyotes'. As a result of the Itinerant DPUˈs mission, four Haitian men and two Haitian women were freed and given refugee protocols.

GLO.ACT Brazil and DPU border missionOn the third day of the mission, a round of conversations were held at the city's interstate bus station. These conversations enabled Haitian migrants to ask questions and to be informed of their rights. During these conversations eleven pregnant Haitian women were identified and consequently housed in appropriate shelters. In addition, Missão Paz donated meals for 120 Haitian nationals, cooked by church volunteers, at a local hotel were Haitian migrants tend to congregate.

During the last two days of the mission, alongside the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, the seminar on combatting TIP and SOM at the border between Brazil and Bolivia was held. Over 60 representatives attended this seminar from government and civil society.

 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.

GLO.ACT Brazil and DPU border missionThe 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.  GLO.ACT works with the 13 countries to plan and implement strategic national counter-trafficking and counter smuggling efforts through a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. 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.

To find out more about this situation click here to read an article from The Intercept

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Fernanda Patricia Fuentes Munoz

National Project Officer

Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil


Twitter:     @glo_act