Teams of the federal police, as well as civil and military agents from Roraima, invaded, Wednesday (17), a refugee shelter managed by Pastoral do Migrante which welcomes around 55 Venezuelan women and children in Pacaraima.
The nun who runs the place, Sister Ana Maria da Silva, 60, was arrested and taken to the police station to testify. The police were armed and hooded.
“I felt like I was the biggest drug trafficker in the world,” he told Folha Silva, who shares supervision of the temporary shelter, linked to the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph with two other nuns. They took him to the police station. What is my crime, harboring pregnant women and children who are on the streets? “
The Roraima state government said the police officers who entered the shelter are linked to the Integrated Organized Crime Force (FICCO). They say they went to the site to support a municipal health surveillance team, which had received a complaint of an urban area in the place, contrary to the municipal decree in force with the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, however, the action was not motivated for health reasons.
“The strong presence of armed military and federal police, some of them hooded, reflects the idea that it was not a simple health inspection, but a coordinated action with the objective of invading Casa São José, to deactivate it and to send women and children for deportation. Said regional human rights defender Ronaldo de Almeida Neto. “As far as we know, there was no question of entering the premises of Operation Welcome. [coordenada pelas Forças Armadas], where hundreds of migrants are accommodated, in order to verify compliance with the municipal decree. “
According to the civilian police, the women and children were in an irregular situation in Brazil and lived in unsanitary conditions, and the place was partially closed. At first, they would all be expelled, but after action by the Union’s Office of the Public Defender, they were sent back to Operation Welcome.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the DPU have filed a public action declaring that there is “criminalization of the provision of assistance and humanitarian aid to migrants” and calling for an end to invasions of refugee shelters. “There are indications that the alleged non-compliance with health standards was nothing more than a pretext for carrying out new summary evictions,” said the action.
The Brazilian government has been blocking the overland entry of anyone from Venezuela, even those with family members in Brazil, since early last year.
The ordinance currently in force, 652 of January 25, 2021, determines that it is forbidden for foreigners of all nationalities to enter Brazil by land, but there are several exceptions: immigrants with permanent residence in the country, those who have a spouse, a Brazilian partner, son or father, and holders of the National Migration Register (former RNE).
The exceptions apply to all nationalities, with the exception of people coming from Venezuela, who cannot enter Brazil by land under any circumstances.
The state of Roraima launched Operation Horus at the end of February, with the aim of protecting the borders and combating the illegal immigration of Venezuelans. According to the state government press office, around 1,500 Venezuelans a week enter irregularly without a health check. According to the government, irregular migrants can overwhelm the state’s health system amid the pandemic.
“This event is very serious. The federal government has previously used the health crisis selectively to keep refugees out while allowing tourists to enter. Now we have seen a health problem alleged to intimidate refugees and a civil society organization, ”says Camila Asano, program director at Conectas Human Rights.
Wanted, federal police did not respond to interview requests in the report. The Pacaraima prefecture confined itself to saying that its health surveillance team had gone to the refuge because there had been a violation of the municipal decree prohibiting the agglomerations.
In public action, the DPU and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office affirm that “without the work provided by these entities, most of these people would very probably be in the street, without the possibility of taking preventive measures, and therefore very more exposed to the contagion, and therefore to be transmitted to Covid-19 ”.
According to the DPU, cases of summary expulsion and persecution of refugees in Roraima have increased. The current ordinance stipulates that any foreigner who enters the country irregularly is “disabled” to seek refuge. The vast majority of Venezuelans have few resources and can only enter Brazil by land and not by air, as the ordinance allows.
They end up entering irregularly and therefore cannot seek refuge and may be deported.