What are some myths about immigrants

Re-evaluation of the "myth of hospitality"?

Migrant demonstration in Criciúma, Brazil | Photo: Michelle Cechinel

Brazil, which emerged from different migration movements, is meanwhile being put to the test in its ability to accept foreigners. Experts point to numerous problems with integrating newcomers.

In the last 15 years, Brazil has become one of the main immigration countries for people from African countries such as Angola, Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal - as well as Haiti, one of the poorest countries on the American continent, which also suffered a catastrophic in January 2010 Earthquake struck, leaving more than three million people homeless.

“Sub-Saharan Africa, but also the Maghreb, have been going through an almost always violent decolonization process since the 1960s, which is causing great poverty. This leads to the emigration of these peoples on a large scale in search of opportunities for a reasonably dignified life and survival, ”explains Emerson César de Campos, historian at the University of the State of Santa Catarina, who specializes in the subject.

Instability leads to migration

Michelle Stakonski, historian at the Universidade do Extremo Sul Catarinense, points to further aspects to explain the recent migration movements: “In addition to the flight from regions destabilized by wars and civil wars, the economic recession in Europe also plays a role, which indirectly also affects trade Africa affects, as well as instabilities of all kinds (economic, political, religious), up to subjective aspects that are more difficult to quantify, such as dreams or personal goals. ”Stakonski also points out that although Brazil has been the most popular since at least 2008 The goal of these peoples to emigrate is that in recent months, due to the crisis rhetoric in the country, many migrants have moved on to other regions of America: Argentina, Chile or Mexico, in the hope of ultimately reaching the United States from there.

According to the Brazilian federal government, the number of African immigrants to Brazil alone has increased thirty-fold since 2000, with more than 30,000 registered residents from almost 50 African nations - including the immigrants from Haiti since 2010, the number adds up to more than 70,000. The hosting of major sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Olympics, as well as Brazil's image as an up-and-coming economy on the international stage, has led Brazil to be viewed as a country of prosperity and, above all, of job opportunities.

Different realities

There are countless cases of people who, for example, entered the country with a visa for the soccer World Cup and never returned to their countries of origin. For Stakonski, 2014 marks the climax of the migration movement. However, despite the great willingness of the Brazilian state to accept it - which, as the historian notes, has a "long tradition as a country of asylum" - the adjustment problems of immigrants in Brazil are enormous.

At the end of 2015, more than 44,000 Haitians were granted residence permits, but many of them had lived in the country as asylum seekers for up to four years, which made it difficult or even impossible for them to have access to working papers and even open a bank account. If they manage to find work, it is not infrequently precarious: In August, a report by Repórter Brasil uncovered the case of 14 Haitians who worked “like slaves” in a sewing shop in São Paulo. Two months later, the Mato Grosso public prosecutor's office made public the case of Haitians who were working on the widening of the BR-163 federal highway “under precarious conditions and without pay”. Mechanisms for monitoring such situations are practically non-existent.

Another problem, as César de Campos points out, is the lack of language skills among many immigrants. “In most cases, African and Haitian immigrants are affected by language problems despite valid papers. Lack of knowledge of Portuguese limits their access to the labor market and thus to a less problematic life. In our studies, however, we also find that legalization, and with it access to the labor market, makes adaptation less traumatic. "

"Selective Acceptance"

"Brazil has always been comparatively open to cultural expressions of all kinds, but this does not guarantee that this encounter will be harmonious and peaceful," emphasizes the historian. "On the contrary, and contrary to the idea that we lived in a cultural democracy that emerged from the intermingling of peoples, as some social theories tried to explain our country, we experienced and still experience cultural tensions in Brazil today."

For Gustavo Barreto, author of a dissertation on immigration to Brazil at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, for which he evaluated 11,000 newspapers and magazines from 1808 to 2015, the idea that we are a hospitable country is pure myth. The acceptance of immigrants in the course of Brazilian history is clearly selective for him with a clear preference for "Christians, whites, Europeans and workers". His analysis: “Recently our country has taken in a significant number of Haitians, but at the same time Portuguese and Spaniards have also come. The press mostly portrays Haitians as a problem, while European immigrants are welcomed as an asset to Brazil. "

Historians agree that Brazil is still a long way from discussing and tackling immigration as complexly as it deserves. Barreto refers to newspaper reports that, instead of making the subject problematic, see the problem in the immigrants. For his part, César de Campos relies on the idea of ​​a transnational state: “By and large, the way in which Brazil accepts immigrants is still very much shaped by the mentality of the 19th century. This is hardly transnational of its kind. That can be improved if we move from government policy to actual state policy, but Brazil, like many other countries, is still very early in this regard. "