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Number of Venezuelans Requesting Asylum in the City of Manaus Skyrockets

06/25/2018 - 11h37

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FABIANO MAISONNAVE
MANAUS

On his visit to Manaus on Wednesday (the 27th), US Vice President Mike Pence will visit a shelter that welcomes Venezuelans called the Casa de Acolhida Santa Catarina de Sena.

The 150 Venezuelans who are currently being taken care of by the Catholic Church are just a tiny fraction of the asylum seekers who are in the city. Most are distributed among overcrowded homes, temporary homeless shelters, informal workplaces and some are even sleeping on the streets.

Due to the saturation of opportunities in Boa Vista, Venezuelans are going to Manaus, a city with 2.1 million inhabitants, 1,008 kilometers away from the Caribbean country's border.

Gabriel Cabral/Folhapress
Venezuelans cross the border into Brazil
Venezuelans cross the border into Brazil

In the first four months of 2018 alone, the number of candidates seeking asylum was greater than the number of requests in all of 2017 (3,500 requests and 2,780, respectively).

The total number of Venezuelan children registered in municipal schools went from 102 registrations to 319, a 213% increase.

Chemical engineer Francisco Lopez, 34, who arrived in Manaus three months ago and used to work for Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, says that at one point he had slept on the streets for 20 days - something he had never experienced before.

He currently shares a one-bedroom house with 11 other Venezuelans and occasionally works as a baker.

The Cáritas Arquidiocesana office in Manaus takes care, on average, of approximately 35 Venezuelan newcomers a day. Asylum seekers receive legal assistance and have access to services such as Portuguese classes, but haven't been able to sign up for the government's internship program.

"The government program should also attend those who voluntarily arrive in Manaus," said social worker Andreia Taniguchi.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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