Brazil granted 30 humanitarian visas to Afghans; 400 remain pending

Brazil has offered dozens of humanitarian visas to fleeing Afghan citizens, but none have entered the country yet. Photo: Shutterstock
Brazil has offered dozens of humanitarian visas to fleeing Afghan citizens, but none have entered the country yet. Photo: Shutterstock

The Brazilian government has issued 30 humanitarian visas to Afghans fleeing persecution from the Taliban in the last month, with around 400 requests yet to be screened and approved by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and other federal agencies — including the Brazilian Intelligence Agency. No Afghan refugee has entered the country as of yet, with some still struggling to leave Afghanistan due to closed borders.

Brazil is in contact with Afghanistan’s neighboring governments to help refugees leave the country. No official contact has been made with the Taliban. With closed borders, Pakistan demands guarantees from Brazil that Afghan citizens entering the country with Brazilian humanitarian visas will not settle in Pakistani territory. 

This Friday, Foreign Ministry chief of staff Achilles Zaluar told journalists that persecuted Christians in Afghanistan are among the most vulnerable groups that Brazil is willing to receive, as suggested by President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Still, he said that “religion is not an entry-barrier,” as many of the requests under analysis are from Muslim citizens. 

The Foreign Affairs Ministry is under severe criticism due to requirements imposed on humanitarian visa applicants fleeing Afghanistan. The Public Defender’s Office has questioned the ministry about demands that it deems illegal, such as requiring Covid-19 tests and proof that the refugee will have lodging, food, transport, and even health and dental insurance in Brazil.  

Foreign Minister Carlos França is under pressure from the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee chair, congressman Aécio Neves, who claims the requirements are illegal. 

The Foreign Ministry’s culture and communication secretary Leonardo Gorgulho dismissed accusations, stating the requirements list is merely a guideline for consular staff and not a legally binding document. Also, the ministry only presented the requirements to NGOs who reached out to the government expressing their intention to sponsor large groups of refugees. Mr. Gorgulho revealed that most pending visa requests came from those groups. 

At least two clusters of refugees are under consideration: a group of female judges and another of female photographers, both fleeing gender-based persecution from the Taliban government. The Association of Brazilian Magistrates sponsors the judges’ requests.