Starting November 23, a former sports gym in the 13 de Setembro neighborhood of Boa Vista, Brazil, will serve as a multipurpose space for Operation Welcome – the government of Brazil’s humanitarian response program for the Venezuelan migrant crisis - as well as for AVSI Brasil and other Operation Welcome NGO partners, to assist Venezuelan refugees and migrants who are in shelters in the city.
It is an educational and training space, which will offer classes and activities for Venezuelan migrants and refugees to help give them a better chance at long-term integration in Brazil. In the future, the space will also house Operation Welcome’s Coordination and Interiorization Center (CCI).
The creation of the space was proposed by AVSI Brasil, which implements the project Welcomed through work, financed by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). For Fabrizio Pellicelli, president of AVSI Brasil, “the individual valuation of each person is the element that will help a lot in the process of relocation and local integration, which is why the training center was born as a space capable of offering new opportunities in this sense.”
Currently, around six thousand Venezuelans are housed in Operation Welcome’s reception centers, including non-indigenous and indigenous shelters, in Boa Vista. According to a survey done by Polis Pesquisa, contracted by AVSI Brasil, Venezuelan families sheltered in the city spend about five months, on average, in reception centers. Only 16% of the people surveyed had higher technical training, that is, any training beyond high school. 59% had low, or very low knowledge of the Portuguese language.
For Suzana Camacho, interim head of the UNHCR office in Boa Vista, this is an important space for the socioeconomic integration of Venezuelan migrants. “This structure symbolizes the transition we all hope for, from emergency to development. We hope that many lives will be impacted,” Suzana said.
For Daniel Amorim Pereira, IOM’s Interiorization and Integration Coordinator in Boa Vista, initiatives like this demonstrate how everyone involved contributes to the future of this population, through Operation Welcome, with the goal of guaranteeing the autonomy and integration of Venezuelan migrants in Brazil.
For General Sergio Schwingel, Operational Coordinator of the Operation Welcome and Commander of the Humanitarian Logistics Task Force, the multipurpose space is yet another tool to provide the best conditions for adaptation and training of Venezuelans in Brazilian society.
About Operation Welcome - government of Brazil’s humanitarian response program for the Venezuelan migrant crisis
Operation Welcome began in March 2018 and is governed by the Federal Emergency Assistance Committee (CFAE) of Brazil, established by law in June 2018. This Committee is made up of 13 Ministries, including the Ministry of Defense, and is coordinated by the Civil House of the Presidency of the Republic. The Humanitarian Logistics Task Force operates in the State of Roraima and Amazonas in managing the border, sheltering vulnerable Venezuelans, and facilitating their integration process throughout the national territory. In this context, the role of Operation Welcome in the humanitarian response for Venezuelans was recognized by the UN as a model response.
Partnership that transforms
The Center’s inaugural event was also included in the commemorative calendar of the 50th anniversary of AVSI Foundation - a non-profit non-governmental organization of Italian origin that implements development cooperation projects in 35 countries.
AVSI Brasil is a Brazilian non-profit organization, qualified as a Civil Society Organization of Public Interest (OSCIP), which was born from the experience of professionals linked to the AVSI Foundation and which is part of the network of founding partners of the Foundation.
Since June 2018, AVSI Brasil has been managing reception and assistance centers for the Venezuelan population in Roraima. Currently, the organization is responsible for managing five shelters, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In 2019, it started to implement the project Welcomed through work, with funding from PRM, aiming to facilitate the socioeconomic integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Brazil, in addition to serving a portion of the vulnerable Brazilian population. In addition to AVSI Brasil, the initiative includes the AVSI Foundation, AVSI-USA and the Migrations and Human Rights Institute (IMDH), as well as a partnership with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Global Compact Brazil Network and the federal government.