The border between Brazil and Venezuela in Pacaraima, Brazil. CREDIT: Paolostefano1412.

Pacaraima, Brazil. CREDIT: Paolostefano1412 (CC).

Nov 8, 2023 Article

Migration from Venezuela to Brazil: Addressing the Regularization of Undocumented Children

Reflections on undocumented children vis-à-vis the Model International Mobility Convention (MIMC) in the context of Venezuelan migration to Brazil.

​​​​It is widely known that​​​​​ that most of the Venezuelan migrants entering Brazil come through the Northern border in the city of Pacaraima in the state of Roraima in the Amazon region. They speak particularly about the Pacaraima Mission established by the Federal Public Defender’s Office (DPU) in the city of Pacaraima through the Operação Acolhida (Welcome Operation), to support emergency assistance to Venezuelan migrants in vulnerable situations in the wake of increased migrant flows in 2018.

The DPU, according to the Brazilian Constitution, has the mission to promote human rights and legal assistance, at all levels, including judicial and extrajudicial, of individual and collective rights, integrally and free of charge, to those in vulnerable situations. The Pacaraima Mission has the objective to monitor and promote human rights in this border region with Venezuela, with a strong focus on children and adolescents in particular migratory difficulties.

The DPU assists such children and adolescents by providing legal guidance, monitoring sensitive installations and emergency shelters of the Welcome Operation, promoting human rights education, preventing human trafficking, and ​contributing to​​ ​ safe, orderly, and regular entry of people into Brazilian territory. It is estimated that there have been approximately more than 13,000 legal assistances provided since the beginning of the mission in 2018.

While that is a notable achievement, one of the challenges is the lack of documents from the country of origin, especially due to the fact that identity cards are not issued to children under the age of nine.

Data suggests that between January 2022 and July 2023, of the 6,423 assistances, 2,488 children were undocumented in the border region between Brazil and Venezuela, and of these 1,341 children were under 6 years of age, 1,793 were between 7 and 12 years of age, and 400 were between 13 and 17 years of age. Undocumented children represent 39 percent of all of the children at the Mission. (Mission Data Dashboard)

The data demonstrates a correlation between young age and a greater probability of having no documentation.

In this context, 1,524 children and adolescents presented identity cards, and 2,191 presented birth certificates; 802 children and adolescents did not submit any documents; 1,706 children and adolescents presented documents not valid in Brazil, such as a copy of their identity card or a copy of their birth certificate. In addition to this, the diversity of documents presented when the child or adolescent arrives in Brazilian territory might generate countless doubts regarding the acceptance and validity of documents.

The reality on the ground is that many migrant children enter Brazil without a valid document or with no documents at all. This happens because they have no documents issued by the country of origin or because they lost them while migrating. Often times indigenous migrant children have no documents.

Based on this conclusion, one of the most challenging situations is the regularization of undocumented children. To ensure the protection of children while making regularization possible, the Joint Resolution CONANDA/CONARE/CNIg/DPU 1 of 2017 now substituted by the CONANDA Resolution Nº 232 foresees an interdisciplinary procedure that includes a careful interview including analysis and protection. This procedure might corroborate the regularization of undocumented children or direct them to protective measures in cases where vulnerability factors or exposure to risks are present.

Documentation is very relevant and vital to exercising an array of key rights. It is also important for effective integration into host communities in the long run. If ground reality suggests that children are undocumented, then a solution is the need of the hour. Brazil has found a temporary solution through the CONANDA resolution, however, there remain risks and challenges. There are many best practices in place in other parts of the world that need to be given a closer look to stimulate wider adaptation.

The Model International Mobility Convention (MIMC), in Section 5, Article 18, states that “States Parties shall issue identity papers to any person entitled to international protection in their territory who does not possess a valid identity document.” The MIMC iterates the importance of documentation, and it is imperative that the international community agrees on a framework for undocumented children, keeping in mind the principles of best interests of child, the agenda to prevent and combat human trafficking, and to enable family reunification, among other possibilities.

Hopefully this could be addressed by the next version of the MIMC.

Lutiana Valadares Fernandes Barbosa is a Federal Public Defender in Brazil. She holds a Ph.D. in international law from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, an LL.M from PUC-MG and an LL.M from Columbia University. She is currently the coordinator of the National Working Group on Migration, Refugee, and Statelessness at the Federal Public Defender's Office.

Ronaldo de Almeida Neto is a Federal Public Defender in Brazil. He is the adviser for cases of great social impact. He is currently pursuing an MPA at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas and was previously a human rights defender in Amazonas and Roraima.

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit. The views expressed within this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Carnegie Council.

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