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Venezuelan migrants in Brazil border town eat from garbage dump

By Joedson Alves / Pacaraima (Brazil) / A group of Venezuelan immigrants has set up a small camp near the municipal garbage dump in the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima, where they fight for food with vultures and dogs.

Around 6-7 huts made from waste materials lie hidden in a small forest around the garbage dump in Pacaraima.

The huts house some 40 refugees from Venezuela, as witnessed by EFE during a visit to the place, situated around 10-km (nearly 6 miles) away from the border.

Pacaraima, the only crossing on the 2,200-km-long land border between Brazil and Venezuela, witnesses the arrival of around 400 Venezuelans every day as they flee the economic, political, social and humanitarian crisis in their country.

Many of them, who lack resources to travel onward to Boa Vista, capital of the border province of Roraima, end up staying in Pacaraima and its surroundings to survive in any way they can.

Their arrival and stay have generated tensions in the area and even led to xenophobic attacks as locals have blamed the immigrants for an increase in violence and crime.

Although the immigrants claim that they are mainly looking for empty cans, metal objects, cartons and other recyclable materials that can be resold, they do not hide picking up food from the trash for consumption.

As an EFE correspondent filmed the garbage pile, a Venezuelan was seen ripping apart a bag with frozen chicken pieces and separating those that he considered eatable, with dogs and vultures jumping upon the rest as soon as he threw them away.

The man went on to hide the salvaged food among other pieces of garbage, apparently to save it from the animals.

Although the municipal dump appears vacant at first glance and only piles of trash along with dogs and other scavengers can be seen from the road, a walk inside the area reveals groups of people wading through the trash looking for objects.

Three Venezuelan men in their late teens and early 20s had lit a bonfire with trash to heat up what they called their breakfast – spaghetti and canned meat – without willing to reveal where they had found it.

The group did not mind talking to EFE while eating.

“We collect material like copper and aluminum to survive. We have been here for four days now, but we come and go. Sometimes, we spend two or three weeks here. We sell the copper and aluminum here,” said one of the three friends, who identified themselves as Junior Jose, Julio Medina, and Leonel Gonzalez.

“Although it doesn’t seem like it, we are fine here. We just came here to seek money because we can’t get work in our country.”

The three admitted that they sometimes ate food that they found there if it appeared to be in a good condition, but added that they never carried it to their families as it could be dangerous for children.

They also confessed that the most difficult thing to face in Brazil was the hostility shown by many locals, who insulted and threatened them.

The relative peace in the garbage dump is interrupted twice a day when a truck brings more trash from Pacaraima and empties it there.

This causes a mini-stampede among the refugees interested in scurrying through the garbage and eagerly ripping apart trash bags.

A deeper tour of the area revealed the small colony of Venezuelans amid the forest, approachable through a path among the trash, with many huts visible through a deep tree cover.

The settlement’s residents are all Venezuelans and include many children and adolescents.

A large number of Venezuelans fleeing hunger, lack of employment and shortage of basic amenities have been crossing into Brazil through Pacaraima and continuing to Boa Vista, from where the government transfers them to other major cities in the country, such as Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro or Recife.

According to official data, at least 264,000 Venezuelans have registered themselves in Brazil after crossing the border.

The United Nations has reported that around four million Venezuelans have fled their country to different parts of the world since late 2015, marking one of the biggest migratory fluxes in the world. (February 18, 2020, EFE/PracticaEspañol)

News related in video (June 2019):


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