Brazilian judge overturns order shutting border to Venezuelans

Supreme Court justice says 'closing the doors' on those fleeing hunger and hardship is not justified.

    About 800 Venezuelans arrive in Brazil every day, according to government estimates [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]
    About 800 Venezuelans arrive in Brazil every day, according to government estimates [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]

    Brazil briefly closed its northern border to Venezuelans in a bid to contain ongoing mass migration from its crisis-ridden Latin American neighbour, only to reopen the crossing soon after.

    A Supreme Court justice overturned on Monday a federal court's decision hours earlier to suspend the entry of more migrants until those already residing in the northernmost state of Roraima were transferred elsewhere in Brazil.

    The border had remained open to Brazilians and other nationalities, as well as Venezuelans returning home.

    "It is not justified to take the easy path to 'close the doors' because of difficulties in hosting refugees," Supreme Court Judge Rosa Weber said in her ruling.

    "Although most of those who cross the border ... do not fit into the legal definition of refugee or asylum, closing the border between the two countries could impact the situation of individuals who can qualify for protections under international law," she added.

    Migration crisis

    About 800 Venezuelans arrive in Brazil every day, while more than 70,000 crossed the border during the past year, according to government estimates.

    Venezuela is suffering from an economic collapse, causing chronic shortages of basic supplies.

    An apparent assassination attempt on deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro last week has further exacerbated tensions in the country.

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    About 40,000 Venezuelan migrants have settled in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state - accounting for nearly 20 percent of the city's population - according to non-governmental international SOS Children's Villages.

    Suely Campos, the state's governor, praised the initial ruling to shut the border.

    "We have been asking the federal Supreme Court since May to close the border, as well as for financial assistance to minimise the impact on our public services," she said in a statement.

    In February, Brazil declared a state of emergency in Roraima that led to a funding boost for the state and doubled the number of troops stationed at the border with Venezuela.

    Rights groups expressed concern over Monday's decision, however, arguing it contradicted Brazil's responsibility towards people seeking sanctuary.

    "Seeking asylum is a right and states must fulfill their shared responsibility to protect refugees," Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International's Americas director, said in a tweet.

    The Battle for Venezuela

    The Big Picture

    The Battle for Venezuela

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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