The Brazilian government is going to grant humanitarian reception visas to people from Afghanistan who are fleeing the country, which, since the 15th, was once again governed by the fundamentalist Taliban group. The measure facilitates the reception of people of that nationality, as already happens in relation to Syrians and Haitians.
Women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and their family groups will have priority. The embassies of Brazil in Islamabad (Pakistan), Tehran (Iran), Moscow (Russia), Ankara (Turkey), Doha (Qatar) and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) will be able to process applications for this type of visa — Brazil does not has diplomatic representation in Afghanistan.
The decision was taken after a meeting of President Jair Bolsonaro with the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice on Thursday (2). On the night of this Friday (3), the folders made the ordinance official in a joint note on the subject.
Refuge is a legal protection for people who migrate due to persecution related to race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. In December 2020, Brazil recognized the situation of “serious and widespread violation of human rights” in Afghanistan, something that speeds up the process of obtaining refuge for citizens of that country.
You can only make this request, however, when you are already in Brazil, and for the trip, Afghans need a visa. Until now, it was necessary to apply for the tourism document or the document intended for family reunion, which are more difficult to obtain, especially for those who are rushing out of a situation of humanitarian crisis. Afghans still have to comply with certain requirements and present documents to a Brazilian embassy. The humanitarian visa reduces bureaucracy and facilitates this process.
Afghans who want to migrate still have to face a huge difficulty: getting out of the country. With international flights suspended since US troops fully retreated and land borders closed, some have attempted to enter Pakistan or Iran irregularly, but both the crossing and the way there are fraught with risks.
Currently, there are few Afghan refugees in Brazilian territory: in total, there are 162 already recognized and 49 processes in progress, according to recent data from the Ministry of Justice. But with the increase in the number of people leaving the country after the Taliban took control, Brazil may be an option for some of them, especially those who already have family members or acquaintances here.
A number of sectors mobilized to ask the federal government to grant humanitarian visas to fleeing Afghans.
Brazilian bodies of magistrates and magistrates, for example, made an appeal for the reception of Afghan judges sworn to death by the Taliban. The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) has called on the international community to welcome dozens of professionals who have condemned Taliban fighters and are now under threat.
The joint note from Justice and Itamaraty this Friday that announced the ordinance states that it will be taken into account, among the priorities, “the particular situation of the Afghan magistrates that was brought to the attention of the Brazilian government”.
Another rescue proposal was presented by Dubai-based logistics company FGI Solutions, which helped evacuate people from Kabul when the airport was still open.
The Afghan company asked Itamaraty, on August 22, to temporarily accept 400 people. They are company employees, translators, journalists, women’s group activists and other professionals who worked for the US government and are therefore at potential risk of becoming a target of the Taliban.
According to the FGI, these Afghans are entitled to seek asylum in the US, but need temporary acceptance from a third country while their US visa application is processed. The company offered to pay for their stay in Brazil. Mexico was one of the countries that accepted this company’s request to receive hundreds of other Afghans, but the company claims that the number of vacancies is not enough for the demand.
“We are very happy that the Brazilian government has finally decided to grant the possibility of a humanitarian reception visa to Afghans,” said Natália Cintra, a lawyer specializing in migration, one of the FGI’s consultants for the Brazilian case.
According to her, the option for the humanitarian visa was the most appropriate. “It is a correct and plural decision, as the effects will benefit hundreds of Afghans at risk, enabling regular transit to Brazil, which can make this journey safer, protect and save lives.”
Judges hidden in holes
The International Association of Women Judges reported that 270 women served as magistrates in Afghanistan. It is still unknown how many would come to Brazil.
“We don’t know how many have left, how many are left. These lists are confidential and change from time to time. Those that remain can be sent to countries that accept to receive them”, says Renata Gil, president of the Association of Brazilian Magistrates (AMB).
According to a report by the American newspaper The Washingon Post, 20 of them managed to escape while flights were still operating in Kabul and were taken to European countries, after the IAWJ obtained visas for them and their families.
Most, however, are still at risk, moving from one house to another or even hiding in covered holes, with difficulty in accessing food, says Brazilian judge Amini Haddad, a member of the IAWJ. In its offensive to regain power, the Taliban opened the prison doors of each conquered city, freeing its fighters and other criminals; many went after the one who condemned them to take revenge.
“Anyone who doesn’t agree with the Taliban’s dynamics is at risk. But these judges are really being hunted. It is not a percentage risk, death is certain [caso sejam encontradas]”, says Haddad. “We cannot abandon these women who only fulfilled their mission.”
According to her, for security reasons, how the rescue of these magistrates and their families will take place will not be revealed, but the strategy is being planned together with other nations and international organizations. Kabul’s international airport is still not operating — a Qatar team helps the Taliban re-establish the terminal — and land borders are closed.
Warnings about the risk run by these professionals have been going on before US troops left the country and have grown after the murder of two Afghan Supreme Court judges in an attack in January this year, says Maria Elizabeth Rocha, minister of the Superior Military Court (STM). At the time, then-President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, which denied the attack.
“Brazil has a tradition of humanitarian reception, of welcoming the persecuted of war. We are signatories to several international human rights treaties. It’s time to show they have the strength. For us, this cultural exchange is very rich”, says Rocha, who was also involved in the efforts for the Brazilian visa for Afghan women.
On Tuesday (31), the president of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), Luiz Fux, sent a letter to Chancellor Carlos França declaring that these Afghan women could work on a program of the National Council of Justice.