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Brazil Operation: COVID-19 Response, August 2020

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OPERATIONAL CONTEXT

As of 31 August, Brazil reached a total of 3,910,901 confirmed cases and 121,515 deaths from COVID-19.

All borders were closed in mid-March and entry restrictions by land, sea, and some airports remain in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including for individuals coming from Venezuela, with few irregular entries and exits reported. For individuals already in the country, the validity of documentation providing legal stay was extended until the end of the emergency. Entry restrictions for foreign nationals have been extended until the end of September following the Executive Ordinance nº 419/2020 issued on 26 August. The measures remain the same as the ones contained in the previous ordinances, including restrictions related to the entrance of nationals from Venezuela by land or sea, regardless of their migratory status. The entrance by air is now allowed and foreign travelers will have to present a health insurance and a visa, if the latter is required according to the Brazilian Migratory Law. According to the Ordinance, non-compliance with entry restrictions could lead to deportation and disqualification of asylum claims.

As previously reported, following the declaration of the State of Emergency by the Federal Government, state Governors have adopted a series of measures to prevent the spread of the virus, and some cities ordered a lockdown. However, since June several cities started a loosening process of gradual reopening, which caused a new increase of cases in several locations.

Many Venezuelan refugees and migrants are being severely affected by the current crisis and have lost their livelihoods, struggling to meet their most basic needs, including shelter and food, also encompassing the five thousand indigenous Venezuelans of different ethnicities (Warao, Eñepa and Pemón). Venezuelan refugees and migrants continue to have access to national healthcare services and economic relief measures as part of the COVID-19 response. However, as the COVID-19 crisis advances unevenly throughout the country, the public health system capacity to respond to the needs of the population is further strained, affecting not only people infected with the coronavirus, but also persons in need of other health services.

In August, the Federal Government paid the fifth instalment of the monthly emergency economic relief of 600 BRL (USD 120) established in April for informal workers, regardless of their nationality, in order to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 situation for up to three months. At the end of June, the Federal Government announced the grant´s extension for two more months, and in August the viability and alternative terms to extend the grant until the end of the year was being analysed.

In order to assist possible confirmed COVID-19 cases, Operation Welcome (Operaçao Acolhida) developed a contingency plan in partnership with UNHCR and other actors in Roraima and Amazonas, including the establishment of a field hospital in Boa Vista (Area of Protection and Care – APC), with the capacity to host up to 1,782 Venezuelans and host community members. Additional isolation facilities were also established in the cities of Manaus and Belem.

On 28 August, the Government of Brazil recognized 7,787 Venezuelans and 161 individuals from other nationalities as refugees, reaching an estimated population of over 55,000 persons formally recognized as refugees. With these decisions on Venezuelans, which are part of the simplified prima facie procedure adopted by the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE), Brazil has now nearly 46,000 Venezuelans recognized as refugees - the largest population with this profile in Latin America. The prima facie procedure was extended at the end of August for 12 additional months taking into account the prevailing conditions in Venezuela, in line with the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.