By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
RORAIMA, Brazil – The governor of Brazil’ northern state of Roraima asked the Supreme Court for permission to temporarily close the only land border crossing with neighboring Venezuela. This move would halt the massive influx of Venezuelan migrants.
Roraima Governor Suely Campos petitioned the high court to order the federal government to increase assistance in her state to deal with the humanitarian crisis. She also requested that the border be closed until the government implements orderly immigration procedures. Campos explained that she had to go to the top court because the federal government had not responded to her state’s requests.
Campos justifies her request by pointing out that the Venezuelan economic crisis causes more than 500 immigrants to cross the open border every day. She says the process is disorderly and most are allowed to enter with no visa, just by showing a Venezuelan document. This has overloaded health, housing, and education services. It is bringing threat of disease and social disorder. Many of these immigrants walked hundreds of kilometers to reach the state capital, Boa Vista, and end up sleeping in the streets.
Campos says, “we have to require more documents, vaccination cards, criminal background checks, the inspection of cars. There has to be a way to contain this influx.” She later told Brazilian media that Brazil’s President Michel Temer has been ineffective in helping her state contain the crisis.
President Temer, attending the Summit of the Americas in Lima, stated that closing the border was “unthinkable.” He said his government was delivering assistance requested by Roraima, and he hoped the Supreme Court would deny the governor’s request to shut the border. The president remarked, “I have just read the petition and I noticed that many of the measures requested are already being taken, such as the shipment of resources and personnel who are going there to provide social assistance and medical care.”
In February, the federal government declared an emergency to boost funding for Roraima and doubled the number of troops at the border. The government also started using Air Force planes to move refugees to larger Brazilian cities. Additionally, closing the border would violate international treaties. President Temer said, “closing borders is not a habit of Brazil. Brazil would not close borders, and I hope that is the understanding of the Supreme Court.”
Since last year, more than 50,000 Venezuelan refugees have fled Venezuela and crossed into Roraima. This influx was approximately equal to ten percent of the state’s population of 520,000 people.
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