‘We don’t have a single real, we’re hungry’: Venezuelans trying to get a better life in Brazil struggle to find something to eat | Roraima

With scarce access to food, personal hygiene and no suitable place to sleep, Venezuelans waiting for regularization in Brazil spend the day on the streets of Pacaraima, a city on the border, to their fate. Entire families spend the night on cardboards, protect themselves from the rain on sidewalks and eat only bread and mortadella for days at a time, while drinking water is also limited.

Families constantly arrive in the municipality via clandestine routes between the two countries and organize themselves in long lines for migratory regularization. There are reports of migrants waiting weeks for documents. The intense flow has been registered since the federal government released the passage of vulnerable foreigners on June 24, two months ago.

Migrants eat bread with mortadella — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

O G1 he was in the municipality and followed the day of vulnerable migrants on the streets in this two-month period of flexibilization.

Operation Welcome, an army task force serving Venezuelan migrants and refugees entering the country, provides night shelter for newly arrived migrants in BV-8 housing.

Since the release of foreigners’ tickets, the number of daily calls for the operation went from 80 to 300 at the Reception and Identification Post at the border.

The “number is in accordance with the maximum service capacity provided by the available means, without jeopardizing the health of Venezuelans and nationals who work in these posts, given that the pandemic is not over and it is necessary to avoid unnecessary agglomerations of people” , quotes the Welcome.

The federal government did not report the number of Venezuelans who have entered the border through Pacaraima. O G1 he sought out the Ministry of Justice, responsible for the Federal Police, the PF, the Civil House of the presidency and the Army, but got no answer. The City of Pacaraima said it did not have the numbers because migrants have been entering through clandestine routes.

Operation Welcomed, in turn, informed that the data is the responsibility of the PF. “It is up to this agency (PF) to request information on estimated arrivals of Venezuelans via clandestine routes.”

The Venezuelan Embassy in Brazil, represented by María Teresa Belandria, informed that the average number of Venezuelans entering the country varies from 300 to 800 per day. The agency said it arrived at this estimate after spending a week following the migratory flow through clandestine routes. The embassy — recognized by the Brazilian government — represents the office of Juan Guaidó, an opposition politician who proclaimed himself Venezuelan president in 2019 during a political stalemate in the country.

People spread clothes on makeshift fences — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

The task force, according to reports from the migrants, offers food only at night and a water limit of 5 liters per person. For the rest of the day, migrants must find ways to quench hunger and thirst on their own. The operation, in turn, denies that there is this limitation and says that there are “free drinking fountains; dinner and breakfast.”

Venezuelans on the streets of Pacaraima — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

Manuel Guillen, 59, lived in Puerto Ordaz, in the state of Bolivar, northeast of Venezuela. He has been in Pacaraima for 14 days waiting for documentation to continue his journey through Brazil. Even though he’s been on the street all this time, the lack of food during the day is what worries him the most. Manuel says that he, his daughter and grandson they only have lunch with bread and mortadella since the day they arrived. because they don’t have money to buy another kind of food.

Manuel Guillen, “We eat bread with mortadella” — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

“During the day, we pay for lunch ourselves and we can only get bread with mortadella. It has been like this for 14 days,” says the migrant.

In the evenings, the priority of the Reception is to provide food for the elderly, women and children, he said.

Rosileni Garcia, “We are very hungry” — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

The young Rosilene Garcia, 25, came from Ciudad Guayana, in the state of Bolivar, along with her sister and four small children. She had been waiting for regularization for four days and reported being “very hungry.”

“We’re hungry. We’ve been out here sleeping for four days and we don’t have food. I have four children, we’re very hungry. We don’t have a dollar, we’re hungry. We only ate once a night. they offer lunch at noon, not even water,” he says.

Rosilene, who was waiting in line on a mat with her children, reported, around 11 am, that she still hadn’t eaten anything. Last night she had slept on the street with the children.

“The dinner they [Operação Acolhida] offer is only for those who sleep in the shelter. When the space there runs out, they close it and whoever is left sleeps on the street and needs to get their own food. It’s been that way since we arrived,” he said, while waiting in line.

Manuel Guillen also complained about the lack of hygiene in the queues. The Reception installed 13 chemical toilets in parallel to the queue. According to the migrant, the 4-year-old grandson had an infection due to the dirt in the area.

“The bathrooms have a daily supply, but the children poop on the floor and this poop is in the sink, on the road. It has a bad smell and has the contamination by producing parasites that bite children and cause infection,” he said.

Restrooms near where children play — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

In line, the stench and dirt of the chemical toilets were evident. Bathrooms have been installed in places close to where children play and families sleep. Administrator Estefânia Guillen, 28, Manuel’s daughter, complained about the daily water limit offered by Operation Welcome: she said it was only 5 liters per person.

“We have access to only 5 liters of water per person at the shelter. I’ve been here for 14 days and with these 5 liters I need to shower and drink, too. We have no way to wash my clothes or where to put them to dry,” said Estefânia .

Chemical bathroom offered by Operation Welcome — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

Many of the migrants turn to Caritas’ Orinoco Project, which provides drinking water, access to toilets, toilets and baby changing facilities for infants in arms. At the project headquarters, long lines are also registered.

Queue in front of the Orinoco Project — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

Military personnel responsible for organizing the queues informed that, for those who have not yet managed to get regularized, the operation separates 600 dormitories at the BV-8. They enter the accommodation at 6:00 pm and leave at 6:00 am, at which time migrants return to the immigration regularization queue.

Families sleep on sidewalks to shelter from the rain — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

Preference is given to the elderly, families and women when deciding who will sleep in the shelter. The rest sleep outdoors, gathered on sidewalks to protect themselves from the rains in the region.

Luiz Salazar, 18, came from Barcelona, ​​in the state of Anzoátegui, and has been waiting for the documentation for five days. Luiz says that he was not included among the priorities to spend the night at the shelter and, therefore, he slept on the floor all this time.

“Since I arrived, I sleep on the street, on the sidewalk. On the floor, in a corner. When it doesn’t rain, I sleep on the street, but to protect myself from the rain, I stay on the sidewalk,” says the young man.

Venezuelans keep their place in line with belongings while they sleep — Photo: Caique Rodrigues/G1 RR

Luiz Salazar also says that, to ensure their turn in the service, migrants put their luggage or any other belongings in the queue as a way to mark the place, while they sleep in covered improvised places.

“We leave our luggage guarding the place in line while we sleep and while it rains. I came alone. I keep my place in line because I haven’t even taken the picture for the documents, nor have I taken the vaccines”.

Reception states that the number of people waiting in lines for assistance in Pacaraima varies daily. Upon being assisted, the migrant takes a Covid-19 test, receives vaccines provided for in the national immunization calendar.

After that, there is the issuance of documents (known as permits) that authorize regular entry into the country; the withdrawal of CPF; the elaboration and issuance of refuge or temporary residence protocols; between others.

In a statement, Operation Welcome informed that migrants who are invited to stay overnight at the BV-8 shelter have access to accommodation, drinking water (without limitation on consumption), food, restrooms, laundry, health care, security, among other benefits. He also informed that for those who cannot find places to sleep in the shelter, it provides a space for people to sleep on mattresses, in safety; have access to toilets; drinking fountains with free water; dinner and breakfast.

Since the end of 2015, Roraima has become the destination of Venezuelans fleeing the political, economic and social crisis of the Nicolás Maduro regime. In 2018, the situation worsened: migrants arrived in Brazil and, with no prospects, lived on the streets and faced the route of hunger on foot to reach Boa Vista.

Venezuelans with children wait on the streets of Pacaraima — Photo: Caíque Rodrigues/G1 RR

Amidst the lack of control, Operation Welcome was created to organize the migratory flow, but three years later, the scenes now seen in Pacaraima – of many migrants on the streets – recall the trigger of the humanitarian crisis in Roraima, the state with the smallest population and the lowest GDP in the country.