Brazil opens arms to Syrian refugees

SHAFAQNA - Brazil’s National Committee for Refugees has taken in more approximately 1,900 Syrian refugees who have taken advantage of measures adopted about two years ago that eased their entry. In Latin America, Argentina has accepted the second highest number of Syrian refugees — 233 — according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Muna Hassan Derweech and her family were originally from Latakia but once the war broke out they paid $3,000 for visa entries to Sweden that were later found to be fake.

“After a few months, we heard that the Brazilian Embassy was granting refugee visas to Syrians,” she said. The family applied for visas and arrived in Sao Paulo in November.

Derweech and her husband, Wessam al-Gammal, a marine mechanical engineer now make Syrian food in their one-bedroom apartment and sell it outside two of the city’s mosques, as well as to neighbors and friends.

“Life is good in Brazil,” Derweech said. “Everyone treats us very well. But it is very expensive to live here and Portuguese is hard to learn.”

Refugees from Syria and other countries receive help at the non-governmental Refugee Integration Institute in Sao Paulo. The institute’s director, Marcelo Haydu, said the refugees are offered professional and Portuguese-language courses to help them enter the job market.


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