Since 2013 when Brazil opened its doors, more than 2,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in the country. Brazil has accepted far more Syrian refugees than any other country in Latin America, according to the UN high commissioner for refugees, and 6,300 more have been granted visas, but this humanitarian support needs to be put in context. In total, Brazil still has only about 8,000 refugees, compared with more than four hundred thousand in Germany.
Brazil is home to 15 million people of Arabic descent, including 3 million of Syrian heritage, but most of these refugees found few people willing to provide support to this latest wave of arrivals. Most of them are in Sao Paulo state where there is a huge Lebanese and Syrians community that was build from decades ago. Culturally open, but bureaucratically closed and very expensive, Brazil is not an easy county to assimilate into. Brazil is not a country that receives many foreigners, mainly because the bureaucracy makes things difficult. Only 0.3% of the population was not born in Brazil and that proportion is declining. Compare that to Germany, England and France, where one in 10 people were born overseas.
Mostly of this new refugees speaking almost flawless English or Portuguese and adaptation and money have been the biggest difficulties. The government of the city of Sao Paulo offered free shelters for those refugees and even some of them that have the condition to pay for its own apartment, have accepted initially because they found difficult to rent as most landlords in Brazil require a guarantor with property. Consulate officials had explained that Brazil offered residency and travel documents, but no government support to find a home or work. Mosques and Catholic NGO provide help with language lessons and documentation, but refugees are largely on their own.
The city of Sao Paulo is where you find more Lebanese’s or Lebanese’s descendents abroad Lebanon and a few of this community have been helped this Syrians refugees, and is supposed that the main reason should be to avoid any future problems. Good parts of the Brazilian population including the Arabic descendents are skeptical to help for the reason of the terrorism, and still a bit more, after the November 13th, Paris terrorism attacks. Many of these Syrian refugees prefer cross the ocean Atlantic and come to Brazil instead to rich countries in Europe like Germany and France. “I like the people here. They are really nice, really welcoming. They love strangers”, said a Syrian refugee identified as Raja.