Brazil’s Supreme Court has ruled the country must keep its border open to Venezuela, as thousands of people flee the collapsed socialist state amid growing famine and political repression.
“It is not justified to take the easy path to ‘close the doors’ because of difficulties in hosting refugees,” Supreme Court justice Rosa Weber said before issuing her ruling. “Although most of those who cross the border between Venezuela and Brazil do not fit into the legal definition of refugee or asylum. Closing the border between the two countries could impact the situation of individuals who can qualify for protection under international law.”
Her ruling came after local authorities in the northern state of Roraima said that they must close the border to some 500 people crossing every day until they could prepare sufficiently for their arrival. However, the order did not affect Brazilians, non-Venezuelans, or Venezuelans crossing back into their homeland.
Roraima Governor Suely Campos had initially applauded the federal judge’s ruling that allowed her to temporarily close the border.
“We have been asking the federal Supreme Court since May to close the border, as well as for financial assistance to minimize the impact on our public services,” Campos said in a statement.
The decision to close the border comes as both Colombia and Brazil struggle under the pressure of continued Venezuelan emigration, as thousands of people seek to flee the country currently experiencing the worst political, economic and humanitarian crisis in its history.
However, many Venezuelans who arrive in Brazil find that there are little job opportunities, and many have ended up living in slums and other substandard conditions. The influx has also led to a rise in crime and prostitution, leading to growing resentment from local communities, who have begun staging anti-migrant protests and even violent attacks.
The United Nations Refugee Agency welcomed the decision, claiming that they were supporting Brazilian authorities in dealing with the influx of migrants.
“The Brazilian Government has till now ensured access to its territory for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in need of protection and provided them access to basic rights and services,” the body said in a statement. “UNHCR has been supporting the Government as it keeps the borders open and allows people to enter the country to find a safe place to restart their lives.”
“A UNHCR team remained on the Pacaraima border and continued to monitor the situation during the brief closure yesterday,” the statement continued. “They reported that some 210 Venezuelans were not able to finalize immigration procedures but were not deported. No pushbacks took place.”