February 12, 2018 / 7:28 PM / 10 months ago

Brazil will not shut border to Venezuelans, seeks to organize flow

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan woman and her child sit at a gym which has turned into a shelter for Venezuelans and is run by Civil Defense with meals provided by Evangelical churches in Caimbe neighbourhood in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil will not block Venezuelans from entering the country through the border in the northern state of Roraima, but has launched a task force to organize the flow and provide resources for cities and states dealing with the refugees.

Thousands of Venezuelans escaping hunger in the Andean country have crossed the border with Brazil in recent months, causing a humanitarian emergency in the city of Boa Vista, Roraima’s capital. The local government said they already represent 10 percent of the population, or around 40,000 people, stressing public services.

President Michel Temer flew to Boa Vista on Monday with some ministers and government officials for meetings with local authorities to better assess the situation.

He promised to provide financial assistance for Roraima and to organize the flow of Venezuelans inside Brazil, including the possibility of transporting some of the refugees to other states.

Many of the people coming from crisis-hit Venezuela have walked hundreds of kilometers to reach Boa Vista and have been sleeping in squares and other precarious areas in the city.

Local authorities said they have no financial resources to deal with the influx alone. Temporary shelters are full.

Last week, a house where dozens of Venezuelans were living in Boa Vista was set on fire by a Brazilian man, who was later arrested.

Temer said after the meeting that the government will not forbid the entrance, but will try to organize the flow.

Reporting by Marcelo TeixeiraEditing by Jonathan Oatis

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