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Emigration | Brazil |

Brazil Background Information Historical Development Political development Foreign population Ethnic origin Citizenship Emigration Irregular migration Refuge and asylum Conclusion References


Sabina Stelzig

/ 6 Minuten zu lesen

History of emigration

Since the 1990s emigration has been one of the most important social phenomena in Brazil – as it has throughout Latin America.

Streams of emigrants took their leave of Brazil as a result of the economic developments of the 1980s. Until the onset of the economic recession the Brazilian people had remained true to their country even in times of economic and political difficulties. Only after the end of the military dictatorship in 1985 did the people´s dissatisfaction gradually begin to show in the form of emigration. The Sarney government (1985 to 1990) did not succeed in bringing the national debt and the highest rate of inflation Brazil had ever experienced under control. Not for political, but rather for economic reasons did many hundreds of thousand leave their country in this so-called "lost" decade.

The ten most common destination countries of Brazilians abroad, 2000 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

As a result of disappointment over the continued economic standstill and the corruption scandals undermining President Collor (1990 to 1992), the mid 1990s saw a second wave of emigration. In 1995 the number of Brazilians living legally in the USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada and other countries was estimated to be over a million; ten years later this figure had already more than doubled. According to the latest estimates of the Brazilian foreign office, in 2007 98% of emigrants were living in four regions: North America (42 %), Europe (25 %), South America (20 %) and Asia (10 %). The remaining 2% were distributed throughout Central America, Africa, Oceania and the Middle East.

Of the South Americans who entered the USA between 1990 and 2000, 65.6% were Brazilians. In 2006 an estimated 2.8 million Brazilians were living in the United States, many tens of thousands of them illegally. Tightening of the laws and border controls made what was at first mostly circular migration to the USA more difficult, whereupon the number of emigrants to Europe in the 1990s grew. For reasons of language and the descent of many emigrants, Portugal was selected as one of the most common destinations. According to the Brazilian consulates, there were about 50,000 Brazilians living legally in Portugal in 2000, and several thousand living there as irregular migrants. Portugal is also used as a gateway to the EU and, among other things, as a transit route to Germany. According to Brazilian foreign ministry estimates, there were 60,000 Brazilians living in Germany in the year 2000 – more than were living in Portugal. Seventy-five percent of Brazilian migrants registered in Germany are women, as Federal Statistical Office figures verify. .

In addition to North America and Europe, at the beginning of the 1980s Japan became the third major migration destination for Brazilians. Of these main destinations for emigrants, only Japan had recruited Brazilian workers. In response to the problems of the increasing number of Brazilians abroad, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, as foreign minister (1992-1993) under President Franco, made it a priority of his work to increase the number of consulates and embassies and extended their function to make them general places of information for Brazilians abroad. Under the Lula administration the first steps have been taken towards an emigrant-friendly policy: the cost of remitting money is to be reduced and programmes to reintegrate returning migrants expanded. To throw light on the situation of Brazilians living abroad the first international conference, "Brazilians in the World" took place in Rio in July 2008. Definite state measures to combat the brain drain caused by the outflow of young workers have not yet been adopted.

The emigrant population

Figure 1: Development of Remittances 2001- 2007 (in billion USD) (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

A disproportionate number of Brazilian emigrants to Japan, Europe and the USA are qualified workers. They are predominantly young and originate from the educated middle classes with urban backgrounds. Despite being employed in poorly paid sectors in their destination country, they often earn many times as much as they would in their country of origin.

In Japan it is estimated that one third of Brazilian immigrants have high school diplomas yet they are usually employed in less popular jobs. They remit three to four billion US dollars annually back to their country of origin. In the USA, 32% of Brazilian immigrants possess at least a bachelor´s degree – the third highest figures among all South American migrants.

The international emigration of qualified people should be regarded as one consequence of the quest for social mobility that is still denied the younger population in Brazil. Due to the population explosion, medium-sized and large Brazilian cities do not offer the highly qualified population adequate employment opportunities. The social advancement emigrants hope for in industrial countries, however, is mostly limited to opportunities for consumption and generally improved living conditions.

However, emigration is not solely a reaction to the long period of economic instability, but also an escape from the everyday violent crime and human rights violations in Brazil. Brazilian researchers also cite the influence of international tourism and global habits of consumption as indirect factors in the emigration of young workers from the cities. In 2005, for example, 40 million people watched a daily soap opera called "America" about a young Brazilian woman who travels to the United States through Mexico and tries to build herself a life in Florida. The fact that the migrants continue to be closely bound to their country of origin both socially and economically is shown first in the sums they remit: in 2007, according to a study of the Inter-American Development Bank, remittances came to 7.1 billion US dollars. The amounts remitted by Brazilians in the USA, Europe and Japan had risen constantly between 1996 and 2006 along with the number of emigrants (cf. Fig. 1).

Figure 2: Return of former Brazilian emigrants 1990- 2000 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Further evidence of the high degree of connectivity with their country of origin is the fact that a not inconsiderable number of migrants, in total 187,180 persons, moved to Brazil as returnees between 1990 and 2000. That amounts to two thirds of the total influx from abroad during this period. About 20% of the former Brazilian emigrants came from Europe; 16% returned temporarily or permanently from the USA (cf. Fig. 2).

According to a report in the New York Times in 2007, fear of deportation and also the weak dollar are cited as reasons for increased numbers returning from the USA.45 The recent stabilisation of the Brazilian economy must meanwhile be an additional pull factor. The tendency not to want to settle permanently in the USA is also indicated by the low number of naturalised Brazilian migrants: in the year 2000 this was just 21.5% - the lowest of all South American migrants in the USA. Comparison with figures from the Brazilian foreign ministry based on estimates shows, however, that emigration between 2001 and 2007 continued to increase even while increased numbers were returning.

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