As the world celebrates World Refugee Day on Monday, Brazil is making progress in reducing prejudice against refugees in the country, especially in employment.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Brazil now has hosted over 4,400 refugees from 77 different countries, of which 64 percent are from African countries such as Angola, DR Congo and Liberia, and 14.2 percent from Colombia.
About half of them live in Rio, said Aline Thuller, a social worker from the Catholic NGO Caritas, which works together with the UNHCR.
But even in Rio, there is still a lot of prejudice against refugees who are looking for jobs, Thuller said.
Many employers still mistake refugees for fugitives, and are uncomfortable with the idea of employing them, Thuller said, adding that the country is going to focus on a campaign aimed at increasing awareness of this issue.
“We have had many cases of refugees going through selection processes and being dismissed as soon as they present documents saying ‘refugee,'” Thuller said.
Thuller said the Brazilian refugee law, approved in 1997, is considered one of the most advanced in the world, expanding the UN’s definition of refugee to include not only people who are persecuted, but also those living in regions with serious disrespect of human rights.
Brazil has few limits for asylum seekers, and once the requests are registered, they receive a temporary document which allows them to work in the country and seek medical care and schooling in public institutions.
Brazil has signed a deal with the UNHCR in September 2010 to provide more assistance to refugees and those affected by disasters worldwide.