The United Nations has welcomed the decision by the Brazilian Government to grant permanent residency to almost 2,000 former Angolan and Liberian refugees, a majority of whom fled their countries during the 1990s due to violence.
The Government’s decree, which was issued on 26 October, will give Angolan and Liberian refugees 90 days after they have been notified by the authorities to request their permanent resident visa.
The decision will affect some 1,681 Angolan and 271 Liberian refugees, representing nearly 40% of the refugee population in Brazil.
The measure was adopted by migration authorities following a recommendation by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in January, asking States to pursue local integration or an alternative status for former refugees.
By granting Angolan and Liberian refugees residency status, Brazil has become the first country in Latin America and outside the African region to adopt UNHCR’s recommendations, the refugee agency said in a news release. Most Angolan and Liberian refugees in Brazil arrived in the country during the 1990s, fleeing internal civil conflicts that displaced millions of people.
In Angola, more than 40 years of armed conflict ending in 2002 displaced over four million people internally and forced another 600,000 in to exile. In the case of Liberia, two civil conflicts spanning from 1989 – 2003, created thousands of refugees. Both conflicts came to an end with the signature of peace agreements involving different actors and stakeholders.
According to the decree, refugees will need to comply with at least one of four conditions consisting of: having lived in Brazil as a recognized refugee over the past four years, being currently hired by any private or public company registered with Brazil’s Ministry of Labour, be a qualified worker with formally recognized expertise, or run his or her own business. Refugees who have been convicted of a criminal offense will not qualify for residency.
UNHCR added that it believes the majority of former Angolan and Liberian refugees will meet the Government’s requirements to remain in the country. It noted that most of them are already largely integrated to society, mainly in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, with many married to locals and with Brazilian children.
Brazil hosts around 4,600 recognized refugees. It’s main other refugee populations are from Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.