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Starving Venezuelan Immigrants Overload Roraima's Public Services

08/27/2018 - 08h43

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PATRÍCIA CAMPOS MELLO
AVENER PRADO
BOA VISTA

Imagine if the city of São Paulo received 600,000 refugees in only two years. This what is more or less happening with Boa Vista, the state capital of Roraima, as well as the rest of the state – a population increase between 5 and 10 percent.

Boa Vista was constantly considered one of the best Brazilian cities to live in: a planned city, with wide streets and no visible homeless population.

Now, Boa Vista's 320,000 residents share their city with 30,000 Venezuelans, 2,000 sleeping in the street, in the open air, while others dwell in shelters or squeezed in insanitary rented rooms.

Roraima is struggling to absorve some 50,000 immigrants that remained in the state, from the 127,000 who crossed the border since late 2015, fleeing the Venezuelan political and humanitarian crisis.

Health services are suffering the most. At Roraima's General Hospital, medical care for Venezuelans rose 2,643 percent. Some of them ask to be admitted in E.R so they can eat lunch.

"The disease afflicting most Venezuelans who come here is hunger," says hospital director Marcilene da Silva Moura.

Edmar Barros/Futura Press/Folhapress
Venezuelans arrive at the identification and reception post of the Brazilian Army in the city of Pacaraima (RR)
Venezuelans arrive at the identification and reception post of the Brazilian Army in the city of Pacaraima (RR)

Governor Suely Campos has decreed to restrict Venezuelan immigrants' access to public hospitals by requiring them to present passports to be admitted. She also asked the federal government to close the border. Both measures were overthrown.

Local politicians are exploring Boa Vista residents' frustration with the Venezuelan immigrants, by bringing up xenophobic sentiment and safety issues.

Roraima is the least populous state in the country, and also one of the most remote - access is only possible by airplane.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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