Crisis-hit Venezuelans leave for Brazil in search of new life
Clockwise from top left: Delia left Venezuela to be able to better provide for her children; Jorge wants to stay in Brazil; William Camero crosses the border every three days to buy sugar for his ice-cream parlour; a Venezuelan man hangs a sign which reads ‘Looking for job’
outside the federal police station from six o'clock in the morning.
Newly arrived Venezuelans wait in line to get registered so they can work in Brazil.
According to the Brazilian federal police, in the first half of this year, 6,438 Venezuelans asked for asylum in the state of Roraima. In 2016 as a whole, the ture, how to provide them food, so they wouldn’t die of malnutrition,” she says, squeegee in hand.
“To pay for their medicine, if they’re ill. In Venezuela, they don't give you anything,” she says of the difficulties of getting hold of even basic medication and food in Venezuela.
‘Don’t look back’
In the centre of Boa Vista, by the town’s food market, Claudia (not her real name) is waiting on the street corner, laughing and joking with friends.
She is wearing a vest top with the words: ‘Don't Look Back’. It could almost be a mantra for what she is going through.
The 22 year old was a stay-athome mum in the city of Maturín, in Venezuela. She came to Boa Vista a year ago and her mother and children recently joined her.
She is one of a growing number of Venezuelans working in the area of town locals call Ochenta (Spanish for 80). It refers to the price in the Brazilian currency that people pay for one escort service. It is about US$25.
But with Brazil’s economy in the doldrums, Claudia often has to accept less.
Still, being an escort in Boa Vista offers her a better life here than the one she had back home in Venezuela, she says.
“We have more access to food because in Venezuela, there isn’t any,” she says.
Her mother knows what she does. “She accepts it because it’s how we can make a living.”
Brazilian state authorities are under pressure. In December, they provided a gymnasium to house incoming Venezuelans.
With their belongings in plastic bags, entire families are perched on the concrete stands along the wall.
At night, more than 300 people sleep on the floor.
Óscar Rodríguez is from Venezuela’s Warao indigenous community. With his four children and his wife, he sleeps under a piece of black tarpaulin in the shelter’s yard.
He, too, wants to find work in Boa Vista, but in this town of 300,000 people, and with few Venezuelans speaking Portuguese, opportunities are hard to come by.
“We can’t see an end to this crisis in Venezuela in the near future,” says Doriedson Ribeiro from Roraima Civil Defence.
“We’re afraid more and more people will keep coming and it will get to a point where we won’t be able to help anymore.”
The number of Venezuelans arriving is showing no sign of easing.
And while for the hundreds of people in this shelter the future is unclear, they say that it still beats the alternative back home in Venezuela.