"Welcomed Through Work" - Integration of Venezuelans in Brazil
The project in brief
The project began in October 2019. The project was renewed in September 2021 and will run through September 2023, with the possibility of being renewed beyond that.
AVSI networks with private companies in Brazil to facilitate the hiring of Venezuelan refugees staying at the reception centers in Roraima State, near the Venezuelan border. While they are awaiting a job offer AVSI helps them prepare with Portuguese and other classes, and after they and their family relocate to a new city, AVSI helps them with rent assistance and social services. The overall goal is to help them achieve autonomy and integration with the host community.
Video: #AcolhidosPorMeioDoTrabalho Temática do refúgio e da migração sob o contexto do projeto
- To improve the livelihoods and autonomy of Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in reception centers near the border and the access to job opportunities for the most vulnerable Brazilian population.
- To facilitate the socioeconomic integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants hosted in the Operation Welcome shelters in Boa Vista by means of voluntary relocation (“interiorization”) to Brazilian cities through work.
- Brazil has progressive and open immigration laws that allow migrants and refugees to quickly receive regularized status and apply for formal employment.
- The Government of Brazil’s “Operation Welcome,” a multi-agency cooperative initiative that facilitates the resettlement of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the interior of the country.
- Project funds from the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).
- AVSI’s experience with private sector partners in Brazil and relationships with UNHCR in border/shelter management.
Main activities of the Good Practice
- Preparatory courses for local integration: Candidates for formal employment staying at the Reception Centers that AVSI manages in Roraima state receive Portuguese and soft skills training to help prepare them for their new jobs.
- Interiorization of Venezuelans from the OA shelters in the state of Roraima to other host cities through work. AVSI searches for job opportunities, understanding the required professional profile for open positions. Once relevant profiles have been identified, the candidates go through a selection process with the company. The selected Venezuelans have their documents checked to guarantee that all the necessary requirements for the “interiorization” process are met, including regularization, work permit, ID number and vaccines. The company signs documents guaranteeing decent work conditions and all required benefits for the employees. Throughout the process AVSI maintains a direct relationship with the hiring company to make sure the Venezuelans are treated fairly and there are minimal issues with integration.
- Cash-based intervention (CBI) support for newly interiorized Venezuelans. To support the Venezuelans for up to 3 months after interiorization and relocation, AVSI gives them cash to pay for rent and other household expenses.
- Accommodation and social assistance post-interiorization in host cities. Aware that income alone is not enough to ensure integration into new cities, especially in the beginning, AVSI coordinates with local public service providers in each municipality before arrival and after interiorization, mediates with the company any important issue that may arise about a beneficiary’s performance or professional behavior, and supports the hired Venezuelans with financial education.
Challenges and how they were overcome
- COVID-19: the pandemic started right as the project was gaining momentum, and many talks with companies were put on hold as everyone was afraid to move people across the country in that moment. Conditions also became more difficult at the refugee reception centers near the border.
- Border closures and regularization issues – The border to Venezuela was officially closed for almost a year, reducing the numbers of Venezuelans entering Brazil. Also, for political reasons the Government of Brazil made it more difficult for Venezuelans entering the country during the period of the border closure to receive their regularized immigration status. Without this status they could not be hired in a formal job.
- Labor supply didn’t always match skills/profiles in demand – The border closure and regularization issues combined to limit the pool of workers with the professional profiles desired by the companies.
How they were overcome
- AVSI provided COVID-19 tests for all Venezuelans to be relocated. AVSI also spent more time in direct communication with company representatives to make sure contingency and safety plans were in place.
- In a difficult hiring environment, AVSI shifted our efforts more towards job preparation, increasing the number of Portuguese and work skills training courses we offered. AVSI also opened up more activities in Manaus in order to reach a larger pool of potential job candidates.
- AVSI worked with partner “empowering refugee women” to get jobs in the retail sector for female refugees. AVSI also increased collaboration with partner IMDH to help people integrate in Brasilia.
Results of the Good Practice
- 465 people were hired with formal guaranteed contracts in the project’s first two years, and together with their family members, 1,065 people were relocated and received rent assistance and social support in their new community. The overall result is greater autonomy and integration.
- 905 people have completed Portuguese and labor market preparation courses, making them better prepared to succeed in Brazil.
- 480 host community members received technical skill certifications and 21 were hired in formal jobs through the project.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The project works directly with the host country’s government, in this case “Operation Welcome.” AVSI takes some of the burden off the government by taking on the role of managing the reception centers, facilitating job placements, and providing accompaniment and social support post-relocation.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The project sets refugees up to be self-reliant in their new environment by preparing them with Portuguese language skills and other valuable courses and helping them achieve a reliable income stream.
The project was renewed and phase 2 began in October 2021.