Posted on 2/14/2023 3:55 AM
(Credit: Vicente Nunes/Correspondent/CB)
Lisbon — The fire, which earlier this month killed two Indians one of them 14 years old living in a vulnerable situation in the Mouraria neighborhood, a stronghold of foreigners in the Portuguese capital, sparked a warning signal among officials in the Portuguese capital the Brazilian government in Portugal. There is a legion of Brazilian citizens in precarious situations, irregularly occupying buildings that are falling apart, that could be consumed by fire or even collapse at any moment. Many of these people crossed the Atlantic knowing they would find Eldorado ahead. But as soon as they disembarked, they saw that the reality was very different from the glamorous world being sold over the internet. “They are victims of digital coyotes,” says Brazil’s ambassador to Portugal, Raimundo Carreiro.
The phrase he uses refers to the Mexican coyotes that bring illegal immigrants into the United States on a perilous desert crossing. “What we see in Portugal are people offering facilities through social networks, many of them young people, who give the wrong idea that everything is easy in the European country,” says the ambassador. They are YouTubers or digital influencers who show up with cars of the year, houses, designer clothes and say that they have conquered everything on Portuguese territory without much effort. In fact, the posts hide a scam. With this image of winners, they offer tickets, housing, jobs and lawyers to legalize documents. People pay dearly for it, many even sell everything they have in Brazil. As soon as they arrive in Portugal, they realize that they have been deceived.
Such is the binge of these digital coyotes that the Portuguese government has launched a series of investigations into influencers, not just Brazilians, as crimes are rampant. It is estimated that at least 22 YouTubers from Brazil are on the suspect list. The Foreigners and Border Service (SEF) informed Correio that it was not possible to quantify how many procedures were underway. “Although the SEF investigates cases of facilitating illegal immigration and association of facilitating illegal immigration, in which the suspects use the internet, especially social networks, it is not possible for us to quantify these cases or provide information on nationality and occupation Profile of suspects.”
For the ambassador, it is necessary that the Brazilian authorities take an urgent stand in the fight against digital coyotes and not only punish those who commit crimes, but also conduct broad campaigns to educate the risks of immigration. This move, Carreiro believes, should be embraced by airlines, with frequent warnings to travelers. In January alone, more than a thousand Brazilians contacted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) asking for help returning to Brazil. they were starving.
What you’re seeing in Portugal is an industry of deceiving immigrants, believes Elisângela Rocha, president of the Diaspora sem Fronteiras collective. “Unfortunately, those who do get caught by digital coyotes get tricked and find themselves in very difficult situations,” he points out. According to her, the cases are much higher than the cases detected because most people who are affected by internet fraud do not report the crimes out of fear. “We just took care of a couple with a daughter who ended up in Portugal via a YouTuber. The promise was that the husband and wife would have a job and a home to live on. We advised them to report the case and return to Brazil voluntarily, but they didn’t want to,” he says.
Elisângela says that faced with high inflation and housing shortages, disenchantment has become a hallmark of many Brazilians, including those who have lived in Portugal longer. “More than 100,000 Brazilians are waiting for documents from the Portuguese government. They live in precarious conditions, being held hostage by underemployment and unhealthy housing.”
Undocumented people don’t even get financial help from the Portuguese state, says the president of the diaspora. Last year, due to the high prices, the government decided to pay 125 euros (R$700) to the most vulnerable families. “Virtually no irregular Brazilian has received this help. It’s little, but it makes a difference for those who find themselves in a difficult situation,” he stresses. There are immigrants many Brazilians who live in apartment buildings. Up to 50 people can be accommodated in a single property. There were 22 foreigners in the Mouraria fire.
Lawyers say Portuguese immigration laws are more generous than many countries. But instead of submitting to bureaucracy, foreigners prefer to believe in the facilities that criminals offer because they’ve heard from someone who did it well. “Immigration scams have multiplied over the past two years because there were many people willing to circumvent the rules,” said a lawyer accompanying the SEF investigation. This even fuels xenophobia, stresses Elisângela, recalling the case of a Nepalese citizen who was attacked in Olhão, in the Algarve, in January. The case prompted President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza to issue a public apology to all immigrants living in Portugal.
One of the avenues pursued by the Portuguese government to curb illegal immigration, particularly among Brazilians and citizens of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), was the creation of a special work visa. Jobseekers can stay on Portuguese territory for up to 180 days. But there are conditions: it is necessary to prove the ability to stay in the country with a financial reserve equal to at least three Portuguese minimum wages (2,280 euros or R$ 16,200).
In defense of this new instrument, Deputy Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ana Catarina Mendes pointed to the legalization of immigrants as a way to end labor exploitation lawsuits akin to slavery are widespread in Portugal. However, since the entry into force of this visa, there have been few inquiries. Brazilians and other foreigners who can benefit continue to enter the European country as tourists, with a stay restriction of 90 days (extendable for another 90 days), knowing that after this period they have the possibility to return to the expression of interest for the residence permit.
According to the calculations of José Luís Carneiro, Minister of Internal Administration, who is responsible for the Aliens and Border Service, the stock of these analyzed inquiries amounts to 200,000 half of them from Brazilians. The hope is that the Brazilian government will strike agreements with the Portuguese authorities to at least speed up the legalization process of the more than 100,000 citizens awaiting documentation. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be in Portugal in April for the summit meeting between the two countries. The Brazilian ambassador to Portugal confirms that the issue of immigration will be high on the agenda of talks between the two heads of state. “We are confident,” he emphasizes.
Correio Braziliense coverage
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