A day in the life of a Venezuelan migrant in Boa Vista, Brazil

Venezuela UN Migrants

Protesters in La Castellana, a neighborhood in eastern Caracas, Venezuela. (United Nations, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Yan Victor Araujo Rodrigues, currently is in the sixth and last year of Medical School at UFRR, Brazil. Mr Rodrigues is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Life at Boa Vista, capital of the State of Roraima, extreme north of Brazil, had always been quite provincial, until 2013. Since then, the streets are full of homeless people, selling stuff or asking for job offers, food or money. Most of those are Venezuelans, running from a massive crises at their homeland.

Becoming a regular brazilian citizen takes time. Then, many start to work irregularly, which happens to make some brazilians unemployed and contributes to the increase of xenophobia.  Federal help never came, despite being required since 2016. Shelters are available, but commanded by a Venezuelan Mafia. Local NGOs bring supplies, but they are not enough. Thus, most of the refugees wander in the streets all day and spend their nights at open spaces.

Approaching some refugees to ask about their stories, current situation and perspectives allowed me to see beyond the obvious. Their situation is widely known all over the region. Little is known, though, about their expectations or, even, whether they have ideas to help Brazil coping with the problems they, indirectly, caused here.

With whining facial expressions, gradually, dozens of people gathered and began to tell me about their lives. Many of them took about ten days, on their feet, to reach Brazil, sometimes alone. They left all behind, with dreams of returning with anything better. That would not be much, considering Venezuela lacks the basic: medical supplies, jobs and food. This forces some people to eat dog food or turn the litter down to eat. Hence, they decide to come. Although, here, unfortunately, there is still much to battle. People starve, need shelter and face xenophobia.

One of the refugees, in particular, said: “I used to be an engineer. all I want is a job. I want to be useful. Of course we need food. But… give me a job and I will feed my family and I myself.”. This speech is constantly repeated amongst them: there are lawyers, bricklayers and teachers. Another quote worth sharing: “You Brazilian people are good, we have nothing to complain about. We just want to work. We understand it is difficult to help every one here. But, if we had the chance to move away, to other cities, it would be a no-brainer, we would go promptly. We want to help the people who remained in our country”.

We need to foresee that, in order to solve the problems, one needs, first, to acknowledge which are them. Food, employment, shelter, healthcare are the most urgent, for they need immediate intervention. Nonetheless, they are not the only ones. And several others may appear as long as the Venezuelan people remain here, not forgetting that they may begin to establish as Brazilian citizens.

In my way of view, providing integrated access to Education is of uttermost importance, considering the next years, maybe even decades. Not only the Municipality, nor only the State shall be involved, but the Federation as a whole, once we are dealing with international concernments.

About the author

Mr Yan Victor Araujo Rodrigues is currently is in the sixth and last year of Medical School at UFRR, Brazil. He has experience as IFMSA’s Local Exchange Officer, interacting with students from several parts of the globe. He has made academic exchanges in The Netherlands (11 months) and Italy (2,5 months). Further, he has experience as IFMSA’s Local Exchange Officer, interacting with students from several parts of the globe. He also speaks five languages: Portuguese, English, Italian, Spanish and French.

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