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UN High Commissioner for Refugees discusses in the Supreme Court ways to improve the integration of around 4,500 refugees

                                                                                                                     Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Deputy Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF), Ayres Britto, received today the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres. Brazil currently has 4,500 refugees from 77 nationalities. In Brazil, Guterres follows an extensive agenda that includes meetings with officials from the three Powers, in order to discuss ways to improve the integration of refugees in the Brazilian society.

Guterres stressed that the Brazilian policy on refugees is "extremely open and generous" as it is very clearly expressed in the Constitution of the country, which is "progressive and based on the recognition of rights and human dignity", but acknowledged that in practice, these rights and guarantees are difficult to enforce. "Brazil is very generous in granting the right to work for refugees, but that does not mean it's easy to find employment," he said.

According to the head of the UNHCR, that occurs in all parts of the world. "There is a whole set of social conditions to integration which are difficult and cause problems anywhere in the world and that could not be different in Brazil," he said. The difficulty of speaking a new language and other vulnerabilities resulting from situations of extreme trauma experienced by refugees, including torture, are factors that aggravate this integration.

"While talking to Ayres Britto, I’ve had the opportunity to look at various aspects of refugee protection in Brazil and see what the potential is under the Brazilian Constitution to strengthen and improve the social integration of the most vulnerable refugees. There is always a difference between the assertion of rights in law and their ability to achieve them", said Guterres at the end of the hearing.

The number of refugees in Brazil - around 4500 - is considered low. This explains why Brazil is out of the path of the largest flow of population affected by conflicts and wars in the world. "The overwhelming majority of refugees is in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia and it is therefore normal that the number of refugees in Brazil is very small compared to those countries that are closer to major sources of conflict that generate millions of refugees in the world, like 1.8 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and another 1 million Afghans in Iran. Neighboring countries always receive the overwhelming majority of refugees", Guterres stressed. 

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