Global Human Rights Defence

People in Emergencies: The Refugees in Brazil
Angela Aparecida Roncetti Souza

Despite having gained increased international attention in recent years, the migrant crisis is not a new phenomenon. According to historical records, the movement of refugees seeking asylum has been occurring since the 12th century. However, it was only after World War II that this situation expanded significantly and unexpectedly. This forced migration, which previously prevailed for reasons such as religious persecution, has expanded in recent centuries to also encompass economic, institutional, environmental, social, cultural, and political processes and casualties (Barreto, 2010).

According to the UNHCR’s (the UN Refugee Agency) ‘Refuge in Number’ report (4th edition) Brazil has accumulated more than eleven thousand refugees until 2018, most of them from Syria.

The regulation of refugees in Brazil has been taking place since 1997 by Law 9,474, which defines mechanisms for the UN 1951 Refugee Convention’s implementation. The Brazilian law, drafted in partnership with the UNHCR and civil society organizations (at that time represented by the Rio de Janeiro’s Cárita Arquidiocesana), is now considered by the United Nations itself as one of the most modern and comprehensive legislation regarding refugees (Barreto, 2010).

Regardless of the guarantee of a new life in the country that has welcomed them, men, women, children and the elderly are still suffering in their process of integrating into society. This is especially apparent when it comes to social and professional inclusion. For those who have escaped death, living with dignity is not a guarantee in their newfound homes.

As mentioned before, despite some records showing that the movement of refugees has occurred since the 12th century, it was only after World War II that it presented itself as a worldwide concern, demanding close attention from both governments and international organizations.

The understanding of Human Rights’ protection, developed through the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, proved to be a turning point, leading the United Nations to develop one of the most important conventions in international law that regulate the legal situation of refugees, the 1951 Refugee Convention (Barbosa, 2007).

It is noticeable that both World War I and II not only restructured the global map but also introduced a new perspective on the discussion surrounding human rights. Thus, the human rights issue was no longer an exclusive competence of international agencies, but also the competence of national governments (Milesi and Andrade, 2010).

In Brazil, it was actually through the new Constitution that, in 1988, that the country demonstrated its participation in the humanitarian sector. As a result, the present Constitution appears to be a milestone regarding social and humanitarian issues, opening the way for a different type of protection and a new dimension of fundamental rights and warranties.

With a clear desire to continue this movement, the Brazilian legislative chamber approved Law 9,474 in 1997, the first specific legislation in the country to regulate asylum applications and their procedure. However, despite being defined by the United Nations as one of the greatest pieces of legislation in the world relating to refugees, there is still a superficiality when it comes to the topics associated with education and housing. According to Moura (2016), it can be seen as a non-commitment by the Government to guarantee these rights, which ends up creating a barrier to the development and social inclusion of refugees in Brazil.

In that regard, the latest report conducted by the World Bank in collaboration with the UNHCR highlighted the challenges faced by Venezuelan immigrants, currently the major refugee group in Brazil (60,2%). In general, the study indicates that Venezuelan adults are 64% less likely to work in the formal sector and that children are 53% less likely to attend school (World Bank; UNHCR, 2021).

With regard to children, only 37,700 (or 45%) of Venezuelan children were enrolled in schools – compared to more than 85% of Brazilian children and youths. It seems that even when they do manage to enrol, Venezuelan children and adolescents often attend crowded schools and are placed at lower levels. The lack of Spanish-speaking teachers is another major obstacle to their success in the classroom (World Bank; UNHCR, 2021).

Unfortunately, it seems to be clear that although there is a large apparatus regarding the rights of immigrants and refugees in Brazilian legislation, the social and human rights policies are still unable to promote the inclusion of individual refugees, making many of them face obstacles while trying to access social services, the formal job market and the educational system. Additionally, these barriers can be related to language, difficulties in validating school documents and confirming professional skills.


 In conclusion, we can identify that even after the great effort in trying to welcome this specific group, it is still visible that the country has only accepted these refugees into Brazilian borders but not integrated and included them in Brazilian society (Moura, 2016). Furthermore, despite the immense progress in the Brazilian legal system, there is still a gap between the law in theory and its implementation, especially concerning social and economic rights. 

In other words, it is clear that even though Brazil has been working to protect refugees for years, the attempt to integrate them and incorporate them into Brazilian society remains a failure.


BARBOSA, Luciano Pestana; HORA, José Roberto Sagrado da. (2007). A polícia federal e a proteção internacional dos refugiados. Brasília: ACNUR.

BARRETO, Luiz Paulo Teles Ferreira (org.) (2010). Refúgio no Brasil: a proteção brasileira aos refugiados e seu impacto nas Américas. Brasil: Ministério da Justiça/Alto

MILESI, Irmã Rosita; ANDRADE, William Cesar de. (2010). Atores e Ações por uma Lei de Refugiados no Brasil. Refúgio no Brasil. In: A proteção brasileira aos refugiados e seu impacto nas Américas.

MOURA, Camila Santos Barros. Crise humanitária de refugiados: obstáculos e desafios existentes no Brasil. Anais do III Seminário de RI, Caruaru, 2016.

World Bank; ACNUR. (2021). Relatório de Monitoramento de Proteção ACNUR Brasil. Retrieved fromório%20de
%20Monitoramento%20de%20 Proteção%20-%20 ACNUR%20BRASIL%20%28 abril-maio%20 de%202021%29.pdf

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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.