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Viewfinder Latin America 2014

Ticket to Paradise

To meet the deluge of its economic growth, Brazil has opened its doors to all immigrants - with unintended consequences.

Last updated: 13 Feb 2014 13:13
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Brazil's booming economy is drawing migrant labour from across Latin America and the Caribbean. Workers are lured by the promise of easily obtained working papers and access to seemingly endless job opportunities.

This open door policy is especially appealing to Haitians who remain trapped in the aftershocks of the 2010 earthquake.

Deep in the Amazon basin, there is a gateway for these new workers - the small town of Brasileia. And the gatekeeper is Damiao, a municipal worker.

In 2009 he was asked to "help out" with processing the paperwork for these new labourers. It was a job he thought might last a few months.

Now, four years and more than ten thousand migrants later, he continues to meet the daunting needs of an unceasing flow of desperate humanity.

 
Filmmaker's view

By Rogerio Soares

In Brazil's province of Acre, on the Amazonian border, exists a place that is seen as a destination of dreams for thousands of Haitian immigrants who arrive at a refugee shelter in the town of Brasileia.

For so many, it is an overwhelming experience, having travelled over 3,000km through rough terrain to reach this place.

Conditions in the makeshift camp are appalling. There are not enough mattresses, sanitary conditions are scant and there is no privacy amongst the camp's temporary residents. The scorching Amazonian heat beats upon them during the day, and often torrential rain gushes over their few belongings. At night, swarms of mosquitoes attack relentlessly.


   

Rogerio Soares is a film graduate from the University of the Arts London and has a Masters in degree in Global Media by the University of East London. He currently lives in Toronto and has joined Filmblanc, a production company currently producing a documentary about infant feeding, shot in 12 countries. His next personal project is about Belo Monte, the hydro damn in the Xingu River, in the heart of the Amazon, and how its construction is affecting the social fabric and the lives of women in the nearby city of Altamira.

 

Nevertheless, they come here willingly in search of a better life. The Amazonian border is a gate, an entry point, nobody stays there any longer than they have to. This camp is a necessary inconvenience in order to achieve legal status into Brazil. It is here that the refugee's work papers and eventual full citizenship into the country are granted.

In the midst of this, there is Damiao, a local ex-soccer player who welcomes the immigrants into the province of Acre. He is the only bridge between the immigrants and the Brazilian government. His job is to make sure that all people are given legal documents, a permanent residency, an ID card, food, shelter and possibly a job.

He is the middleman between Brazilian entrepreneurs who arrive at the distant border to recruit people to work in factories and farms. He is the person who listens and administrates, the gate's guardian and the person who can change people's lives by lending an extra hand. He is a listener, a father, a brother but also a sheriff, the captain and the boss. A shelter that houses as many as 1,000 people is not an easy place to manage alone. There is violence, theft and frustration as people stay as long as three months waiting, hoping for a job offer. Damiao is a man with a mission but few resources.

When I arrived at the camp for this documentary, Damiao was working hand in hand with Ricardo, a 28-year-old Haitian volunteer who provided translation services and acted as a bridge between Brazil and Haiti.

I found this relationship between the administrator and a volunteer crucial to my film; I portrayed how a man with few governmental resources found a willing volunteer who eventually demonstrated his own leadership skills and advanced his chances for the realisation of his dream. Ricardo stayed in the camp for three months in order to help his fellow countrymen and was finally rewarded with a good permanent job as gratitude for all he did. Damiao remains on duty; the number of arriving immigrants increasing and life goes on in the camp.

By showing this relationship, along with the plight of women who are left behind, and the immigrants who are robbed, abused and cursed by the police in Peru and Ecuador, I hope to shed light on the plight of Haitians who have no other recourse than make the dangerous and humiliating journey to Brazil in search of work.

In Pictures:
 

This episode of  Viewfinder  can be seen from Monday, February 17, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.

Click here for more on  Viewfinder  .

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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