UNHCR welcomes Brazil's announcement to grant visas to Syrian refugees

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Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers gather informally on a Sao Paulo street. (© UNHCR/K.Fusaro)

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has welcomed Brazil's decision to issue special humanitarian visas to people affected by the Syrian conflict.

UNHCR says Brazilian embassies in countries neighbouring Syria will be responsible for issuing travel visas to people wanting to seek refuge there, and claims for asylum will need to be presented on arrival in Brazil.

Agency spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva on Friday that family members living in the neighbouring countries will also receive visas.

"Brazil is the first country in the Americas region to adopt such an approach towards Syrian refugees. An estimated three million Brazilians have Syrian ancestry, mainly from a wave of immigration that occurred at the end of the 19th, start of the 20th centuries. So far, the number of refugees from the recent Syria crisis in Brazil has been small, with around 280 individuals having been recognized by CONARE. There are no pending asylum claims. Brazil has approved 100 per cent of the claims presented so far, according to the Ministry of Justice. However, the numbers of people seeking asylum has gradually been increasing."

CONARE is Brazil's National Committee for Refugees.

UNHCR says Brazil is host to approximately 3,000 asylum seekers and more than 4,000 refugees, most of whom come from Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.


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