In his first speech to the United Nations (UN), on Monday 19, President Michel Temer inflated the number of refugees accepted by Brazil, to include 85,000 Haitians received after 2010. The international convention on the subject, however, defines as refugees only people who leave their countries because of fear of racial, religious, political or social persecution.
The figures were presented at high-level meeting convened by Un’s General Secretary Ban Ki-moon to discuss the situation of refugees and migrants. Temer said that in recent years, Brazil received 95,000 refugees. If Haitians are removed from the count, because they left their country due to natural disaster, the figure drops to 8,800.
Even the National Committee for Refugees (Conare), an agency of the Ministry of Justice reports on its website that Brazil has 8,800 refugees from 79 countries. Of these, 2,300 came from Syria, the main target of international concern in the discussion of the topic. The UN event was intended to increase the commitment of countries in receipt of persons who leave their country for reasons beyond their control.
In an interview after the speech, the Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, said that the numbers were not inflated. But he himself acknowledged that people displaced by natural disasters are not part of the UN’s definition of refugees.
According to him, the expansion of the definition is one of the “big order” of Brazil, which will be presented in panel to be held at the UN on Monday afternoon. The issue is under discussion at the UN, but the change in the refugee classification has not yet been approved.
“It would be discriminatory to exclude Haitians from the possibility of being treated as refugees so only because they are in Latin America and not other parts of the world,” said Moraes. The minister said that Brazil gives a more advanced treatment than many countries to this population to allow access to public services and social benefits.
In addition to the natural disaster, Haiti also lives a “conflagration” situation, said Moraes, which is reflected in the presence of forces of the country UN, led by Brazil. “Very few countries, at example of Europe and the US, include refugees in their health system, such as Brazil, or include refugee children in the education system.”
Moraes also said that Brazil will receive over 2,700 immigrants from Syria in 2017.
According to the minister, the government did not present specific targets on refugees at the meeting scheduled for Tuesday by US President Barack Obama. The US government pressed for Brazil to participate in the meeting actively and concrete commitments, including an increase of 3,000 in the number of Syrian refugees in relation to those already received. Since there are no goals, Brazil will attend the meeting as an observer.
In a note sent by the Special Secretariat of the Presidency Communication, the government denies that Temer has inflated the number of immigrants.
“Latin America is at the forefront of the refugee issue. The Action Plan of Brasilia of 2014, adopted by Latin American countries and the Caribbean, extends to the UN High Commissioner officials for Refugees, the task of assisting victims of natural disasters, expanding Brazil’s perspective in the discussions on the matter and the traditional concept of refugees. it is in this perspective that Brazil grant humanitarian visas to Haitian nationals seeking shelter in the country after the 2010 earthquake. “