March 25, 2020 / 2:08 AM / 15 days ago

Brazil eases residency visa requirements for trafficking victims

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human trafficking survivors will have an easier time gaining residence in Brazil after they are rescued, according to an ordinance issued by the government on Tuesday.

The measure creates a special procedure to expedite the issue of visas to migrants subjected to trafficking and violent crimes like domestic abuse, the government said.

Brazil is a regional hub for human trafficking, but rescued survivors have been without a clear path to residency since a 2017 change in the nation’s migration law, experts said.

Under the new measure, a visa applicant must be recognized as a victim by government authorities. Then migration authorities have a final say, taking into account if the victims cooperate with efforts to catch their abusers.

When granted, the visa authorizes migrants to work legally in Brazil.

“This ... protects abused immigrants, usually women, who suffer aggression and violent relationships,” said Andre Furquim, director of the migration department at the National Secretariat of Justice, in a statement.

In Brazil, trafficking victims from Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti and China have been found in forced labor and debt-bondage, particularly in the construction and textile industries, according to the U.S. 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

About 40 million people globally are estimated to be enslaved - in forced labor and forced marriages - in a trade worth an estimated $150 billion a year to human traffickers, according to the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO).

But changes in Brazil’s migration law in 2017 that overturned an earlier residency ordinance left trafficked migrants in legal limbo, said Joao Chaves, a federal public defender and migration specialist.

“We have been waiting for this for two years and four months,” he said.

Larissa Getirana, from Caritas, a non-profit that helps migrants, said she considered it “unfair” for the government to make survivors’ cooperation with criminal investigations a determining factor in their applications.

“They are people who have already gone through an exploitative situation,” she said.

She also questioned the requirement that applicants provide an official document with a photograph, given that traffickers often take identification documents away from their captives.

“We will have to assemble a whole support system to help these migrants obtain their documentation,” said Getirana.

Reporting by Fabio Teixeira @ffctt; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org

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