Over the next three months, São Paulo will host a cultural festival celebrating its refugees. Dubbed “Refugees, A Home Called São Paulo”, the festival features a number of activities. In addition to the arts and crafts fair, the event will have a photography exhibit. Food stalls serving traditional cuisine will also be present at the fair, occurring in downtown São Paulo.
Every Sunday, there will be music and dance performances. The Senegalese musical group “Sunuga”, pictured above, is one of the main attractions. All activities have free entry for anyone interested in participating.
Brazil: a home for refugees
While Europe and the U.S. struggle with a political battle over refugees, Brazil has historically kept an “open-arms” policy. In response to the successive environmental disasters in Haiti, Brazil has issued over 44,000 humanitarian visas to arriving Haitians just last year. Furthermore, it has already issued a number of humanitarian visas for Syrian refugees. In fact, Brazil is looking at accommodating over 100,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. For the Syrian community already here, they believe Brazil needs to get its act together in order to properly host such a high volume of newcomers.
Mohamad Bukai is one prominent leader of the Syrian community in São Paulo that feels this way. “The Brazilian government facilitates asylum but takes no responsibility once refugees arrive. Brazil should have a policy of integration and support, especially during the first months after their arrival – this is when people are the most vulnerable. The Syrian community helps, as do the Brazilian people, but we are operating past our limits,” he explains.
But while Brazil still has a long way to go before it can provide the necessary services that refugees need, festivals like this one in São Paulo can show just how welcome they are to make a home here.