The role of students in a migration crisis in Roraima, Brazil

refugees venezuela

Venezuelans cross the Simon Bolivar International Bridge into the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, October 2018. © UNHCR/Fabio Cuttica

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Dandara Melo Honorato, a second-year medical student from Federal University of
Roraima in Boa vista, Roraima, Brazil. She is
 affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


While Venezuela faces one of the worst crises in its history, Roraima, a border state located in the extreme north of Brazil, receives its impact; the flow of immigrants in recent years has increased exponentially, and a small, marginalized state is then faced with the responsibility of receiving and welcoming a weakened population, in its majority. In this sense, public opinion is divided: to expel or to host? Xenophobia or empathy? Is the state responsible for giving them the same right to health?

According to the 1988 Constitution, the Sistema Universal de Saúde (SUS), the brazilian heathcare system, is considered universal; its access can not be denied to an individual located in any Federative Unit, as well as foreigners, immigrants or refugees. In addition, it has the principles of equity, to alleviate inequalities, and of integrality, aiming to approach the patient as a whole.

Despite efforts by governments and the UN, Venezuelan immigrants are still helpless, and the governor declared a state of public calamity in health.

One of the perceived problems is the lack of information about immigrant rights to various health services, such as free vaccination. Another barrier is prejudice, which intimidates Venezuelans and is reflected in the bad quality of care. Thus, more comprehensive strategies are required in order to provide them with the right to public health, and in order to allow a better functioning of the services.

In this context, it is the role of the Ministry of Health to promote contact between Health Secretariats, especially between border states, in order to provide information bulletins on the general state of immigrants, in view of the internalization carried out by the Brazilian army. In this way, prevention and care campaigns can be better prepared.

But mainly, so that the immigrants can be aware of their rights to the services, one must occupy public spaces, taking health education to them. In this role, the protagonism of students is highlighted, who mobilized are able to promote partnerships and reach places where the State neglect. Medical students can promote campaigns, in partnership with the health department, to provide basic screening services and inform them with bilingual materials about the functioning of the SUS, and where they should appeal according to the health demand. In addition, they should improve the local medical education with the sensitivity about immigrant care, with symposia and projects, to train more empathic professionals.

In parallel, law students can act offering legal support, with information about documents that facilitate the regularization of their stay in Brazil, which, consequently, would improve access not only to health, but also to other rights that they possess.

Although the migratory scenario in Roraima has reached an alarming level, initiatives such as these are able to alleviate the overload of the state machinery and alleviate the negligence of this type of population, focusing on the artifacts assured by the SUS principles and serving as an example for eventual states.

About the author

Dandara Melo Honorato is a second-year medical student from Federal University of
Roraima in Boa vista, Roraima, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of
Medical Students Associations (IFMSA Brazil), working as a Local Officer on human Rights and Peace Director (LORP-D). She also dedicates her time to coordinate a volunteer extension project in music teraphy. Besides that, she is motivated to expand her experience in research and publication, focusing on epidemiology and Human Rights.

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