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Brazilian shelters overwhelmed by influx of Venezuelans

Brazilian shelters overwhelmed by influx of Venezuelans


AFP
Boa Vista, Brazil
As soon as the traffic lights turn red, a swarm of young Venezuelans with sponges and plastic bottles of detergent surround cars offering to clean the windshield for a bit of spare change.
Others fleeing economic hardship at home and trying to get by in this city in Brazil's north stand on corners and wield signs advertising their workplace skills.
More discretely, and at night, Venezuelan women work street corners to sell sex in this capital city of the state of Roraima, which borders the crisis-stricken Venezuela. There are Venezuelans everywhere in plazas, in parks, you name it. Those capable pool their money and rent a place to live. City hall in Boa Vista estimates there are some 40,000 Venezuelans in this city of 330,000 -- but nobody knows for sure.
"We are facing a humanitarian crisis,"Mayor Teresa Surita said. She said the Brazilian central government has been slow to deal with the massive influx over the past three years of Venezuelans fleeing shortages of food, medicine and work back home.
"There have been a lot of meetings and not much action,"she said."We are always in crisis mode because of the lack of planning."
The government in Brasilia recently announced measures to confront the crisis. But you would never know that in the streets of Boa Vista, where it is hard to walk without tripping over somebody from Venezuela, desperately trying to survive.
Three makeshift shelters were set up last year, but they only have room to accommodate some 1,500 people, a third of those deemed to be in absolutely desperate conditions.
The government estimates between 500 and 1,200 Venezuelans cross the border -- situated about 215 kilometers from Boa Vista into Brazil every day. Many obtain legal status by declaring themselves refugees or receive temporary residence. Then they move on to Boa Vista in search of work. But few find anything.

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