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Host Communities, first to integrate refugees and migrants

Host Communities, first to integrate refugees and migrants

Brazil reflects on its "internalization" strategy, which put local governments at the center of the discussion and has benefited 74,375 people to date. 

By Isadora Zoni 

Brasília, May 12, 2022 — The successful voluntary relocation strategy that has allowed the integration of more than 70,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees in 826 municipalities of the Brazilian territory through the process of internalization, not only allowed a respite to public services in the regions most affected by the Venezuelan flow,  it also accelerated the integration of migrants and refugees. 

In addition, its impact led to the need to talk about "Host Communities" by the Pro Tempore Presidency of Brazil, who devised this webinar to share experiences at the regional level.

Ricardo Rizzo, focal point of the Pro Tempore Presidency, stressed that "the concept of host communities is a very broad, multidimensional concept. We are talking about civil societies, local governments, different sectoral communities, education, churches, neighborhood councils, and even the private sector." 

Rizzo stressed that the Brazilian decision to help set up networks of relevant actors in these host communities to continue advancing in the possibilities of integration is a decisive factor for the success of the "internalization" strategy.

Some of the challenges of the local integration of the Venezuelan refugee and migrant population develop from the first moment of arrival in the host country, with emergency solutions to meet the basic needs of housing, food and health, until their full access and exercise of rights. 

To this end, the Host Communities have been forced to improve the provision of public services to the population on the move. This translates into social investment by local governments to allow access to the health, housing and education system, increase employment opportunities, among other examples, in order to benefit not only refugees and migrants, but also the population of the Host Communities.

In addition to the technicians, the webinar was attended by Leonardo Pascoal, mayor of the municipality of Esteio-RS.  According to Pascoal, in August 2018, after an invitation from the then Minister de Social Development, the city government agreed to be part of the program of internalization of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, in alliance with the federal government. In the month following the acceptance, he himself embarked for Roraima to learn about the work of "Operation Welcome", and from there he returned with the first group to the city, composed of 125 people. A few days later, they received another group totaling 224 people. 

According to Pascoal, "for 6 months, through a multidisciplinary team, we worked for the emancipation and social insertion of these people in health, education and social assistance services. Today, everyone is employed." 

Esteio's experience shows the substantial gain of a policy focused and articulated at the national and local levels, for a better integration and protection of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. In addition to demonstrating more agility, by fragmenting the flow and distributing it better to the needs throughout the territory so as not to overload the public sector. Pascoal exemplifies that "in just one week of the arrival of the children, they were all enrolled and attending classes in our municipal schools."

The webinar was attended by 77 people and was divided into two moments. First, with varied presentations from: the R4V Inter-agency Coordination Platform; the mayor of Esteio-RS, with the experience of local governments to the "internalization" strategy of the Brazilian federal government; the UN-HABITAT, on the Inclusive Cities and Solidarity Communities project; the Professing Life Professional Organization (Corprovid), which added  field experience in Colombia; the Refugee Unit in the Field of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada Settlement and Integration Policies; and on behalf of the private sector, the Human Resources Manager of Sitel Group. 

In a second moment, the participants were divided into smaller groups in discussion rooms based on guiding questions:

  • What practices could be applied in a regional perspective?
  • How to generate a Regional Network of Host Communities?  (link)
  • How to include the private sector in strengthening Host Communities?  (link)
  • How can the international community help strengthen Communities of Support in the region?  (link)

As recognized by the Global Compact on Migration (link) and the Global Compact on Refugees (link), the role of Host Communities is key to integrating, protecting and assisting refugees and migrants, as the search for solutions emanates from the channeling of humanitarian and technical support. The purpose of the Compacts is to put into practice the principles of burden-sharing and shared responsibility in order to better protect and assist migrants and refugees, support host countries and communities, and have broad multisectoral collaboration to address migration in all its governance dimensions.