Challenges Faced by Gaza Repatriates in Brazil Amid Adaptation and Family Separation

Palestinian-Brazilians sheltered in the interior of São Paulo report concern for relatives left behind and few job opportunities

São Paulo

Palestinian with Brazilian citizenship Ramadan Hasan Abdou, 29, had to make the hardest decision of his life days after the start of the Israel-Hamas war. After escaping death in a bombing that destroyed his home, he boarded for Brazil in the first group of repatriates by the federal government, but left behind three of his children.

The children did not have permission from their mother to travel and are still at risk in the Gaza Strip. With six months of war, completed on Sunday (7th), Abdou tries to adapt to the new routine but says that the anguish increases every day. The mother of the children, his ex-wife, has been missing since another attack devastated the building where she was sheltered. The children now live with two aunts in precarious conditions in a tent in the city of Rafah, the only major urban center that Tel Aviv has not yet invaded by land.

"The children [in Gaza] are dying of hunger. I usually say that animals now live better than people," says Abdou, who lives in a rented apartment in São Paulo with his current wife and two other children. "There is a lot of pain in my heart. I have no peace. My children fight death minute by minute."

Other repatriates from Gaza, trying to rebuild their lives in Brazil, report similar suffering. They alternate between work, Portuguese classes, and psychological counseling sessions with the news of the conflict. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 115 Brazilians and relatives were evacuated from Gaza since last October. The last four left the Palestinian territory on February 8th and arrived in São Paulo on a commercial flight.

Currently, 32 Palestinian-Brazilians and repatriated relatives are in Vila Minha Pátria, in Morungaba, about 100 km from São Paulo. The space is managed by the Brazilian Baptist Convention, a Christian association of Baptist churches, to shelter refugees and immigrants. Today, the place houses 147 people, mostly Afghans.

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