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MIGRATION: Brazilians Start Heading to Spain Instead of Portugal

Mario de Queiroz

LISBON, Mar 31 2008 (IPS) - Portugal’s economic crisis and extremely strict border policing, and the availability of cheaper flights from South America to Madrid, are the main reasons for the increasing number of Brazilians choosing to emigrate to Spain instead of the country with which they share cultural and language ties.

So IPS was told by Eduardo Tavares de Lima, a member of the executive body of Casa do Brasil in Lisbon, which the 63-year-old Brazilian writer and journalist adopted as his home city in 1975, and where he is a distinguished leader of the vast community of Brazilians resident in Portugal.

But the rise in the number of immigrants from Brazil arriving in Spain has already provoked a diplomatic row between the two countries, after similarly strict migration authorities in Madrid’s Barajas airport deported a number of Brazilians who were seeking entry.

In retaliation, Brasilia decided to bar entry to Spanish tourists without hotel reservations.

Between Mar. 6 and 12, 24 Spanish tourists were sent home by migration officials at Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador de Bahia airports.

The Madrid newspaper El País said on Mar. 24 that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry openly admits that these measures are a form of reciprocity toward Spain, which refused entry to close to 1,000 Brazilians in the first quarter of this year.


The most notorious examples of excessive zeal on the part of Spanish authorities took place in early March, when Brazilian academics were prevented from travelling onward through Spain to a congress in Lisbon, and one student, Yanaina Agostinho, was detained.

Although the young woman fulfilled the requirements of having 750 dollars, a return air ticket and hotel reservations, she was deported after spending a week locked up in the Madrid airport.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said his country would not allow illegal entry of immigrants, but he acknowledged that problems may have arisen from actions by individual police officers.

His statement helped to turn the heat down a fraction in the “deportation war” between the two countries.

According to the Portuguese press, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry protested about the insensitivity of Spanish police officers in cases like that of university students studying at Portuguese universities, who were refused entry in transit to Lisbon even though the Brazilian consul could vouch for their status.

Traditionally, Brazilian migrants, tourists or students travelling to the European Union would head for Lisbon, but this has been gradually changing over the past two years.

According to a Brazilian Foreign Ministry document quoted by the Portuguese newspaper Público, the number of Brazilians denied entry to Portugal has been falling at the same rate as it is rising in Spain.

The report says that, according to Spain, Brazilians are now arriving more frequently in Madrid because they have a better chance of getting past the authorities by claiming they do not understand the questions during in-depth interrogations, something they cannot do in Portugal where officials speak the same language.

The non-governmental organisation SOS Racismo says that the number of Brazilians in Spain has increased from 30,000 in 2005 to 80,000 in 2007. However, it is still much lower than in Portugal, where the Casa do Brasil estimates that 120,000 Brazilians are living.

“When you consider that Spain’s population and territory are five times larger than Portugal’s, the proportional difference in the number of Brazilian immigrants in each country is even wider. Here in Portugal, Brazilians are prominent in trade, tourism and restaurants, so they are quite visible in society,” Tavares de Lima told IPS.

“Migration of Brazilians to foreign countries is a recent phenomenon. Before, exactly the opposite happened: Brazil was a recipient of immigrants. But times changed with the series of economic crises from the 1970s on, when the ‘Brazilian miracle’ went up in smoke,” he said.

After that, the exodus started “with large numbers of people heading to Paraguay, where their prospects were better than in Brazil. Then people of Japanese descent went to their ancestors’ homeland, dazzled by Japan’s tremendous economic growth,” he said.

Tavares de Lima said the final straw was “the failure of the economic plan devised by President José Sarney (1985-1990), in 1986. This coincided with the entry of Portugal and Spain into what was then the European Economic Community, now the EU, which became the dream destination of everyone who was seeking new opportunities that were unavailable in Brazil.”

Two decades ago, “the European economy was undergoing rapid expansion and everyone was welcome. Today, Europe is juggling a hot potato and doesn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

Eduardo Gradinole, head of the Department for Brazilian Communities Abroad (DCBE), told Público that many Brazilians detained in Madrid reported bad treatment, unjustified detention and lack of respect for their human rights.

According to a DCBE document, the list of “inflexible” countries in terms of enforcing EU entry rules is headed by the trio of Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva broached the subject with his Portuguese counterpart Aníbal Cavaco Silva during an official visit to Brazil by the latter last month.

Lula mentioned the 1.37 million Portuguese who live in Brazil, and expressed the hope that “Brazilians will be made as welcome in Portugal as the Portuguese have always been in Brazil.”

 
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