Brazil reopens northern border to Venezuelan migrants

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil has re-opened its border to Venezuelans fleeing economic and political turmoil, just hours after a judge ordered the frontier to be closed amid a growing regional migration crisis.

After a court order closed the South American country’s northern border with Venezuela on Monday, an appeal resulted in the border being reopened Tuesday.

The appeal was filed by the Attorney General Office and accepted by a federal court. The Office released a statement saying that the court acknowledged that closing the border represented a ‘grave violation of the public and judicial order.”

According to the statement, the previous order to close the border not only offended the constitutional principle of separation of powers but also represented a violation of international protocols to protect refugees.

Judge Helder Girao Barreto, who ordered the border closure had argued that the federal government’s actions were not sufficient to distribute the burden of immigration to the entire country, and that Roraima, the state bordering Venezuela, is shouldering the burden itself.

However, the Office also observed that given the extension of the existing border, a specific border station in Roraima closed would not serve to half the influx of Venezuelan immigrants to Brazil.

The number of Venezuelan immigrants in Brazil skyrocketed in recent months. The number of refugee requests doubled in the first half of 2018, surpassing 35,000. Another 11,000 requested permits for temporary residence and 10,000 sought to legalize themselves in the country.

Most of the immigrants remain in Roraima state or in neighboring Amazonas. The high influx of people caused extra demands for education, housing and healthcare in Roraima, more than it could handle alone.

Countries across South America have struggled to cope with the region’s worst migration criss in decades. More than a million Venezuelans have headed west to Colombia, where the outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a decree last week granting residency and work permits to 440,000 undocumented migrants.