Pepe Escobar writes with regard to my posting about Brazil’s granting of asylum to Palestinian refugees expelled from Palestine by the Israeli military in 1948, who had taken refuge in Iraq but have now been forced out of that country, as well.
Escobar writes regularly for the Asia Times and has a recent book, Red Zone Blues: : a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge .
I happen to be in Brazil at the moment. Re: one of your posts this Sunday, I guess you and your readers might be interested to know something about the Palestinian refugees in Brazil.
Up to next month Brazil will receive 117 Palestinian refugees. They lived in Baghdad during Saddam; before the invasion they were taken to Ruweished, a refugee camp in the middle of the desert in Jordan 60 km away from the Iraqi border. I visited the camp in 2003 – the living conditions were absolutely appalling.
Some of the refugees will be settled in cities in Rio Grande do Sul, a wealthy agricultural/industrial state in the south neighboring Uruguay. Others will se settled in Sao Paulo state, the wealthiest in the nation. They chose Brazil; others opted for Canada and New Zealand.
According to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, they will all have juridical and diplomatic protection. Each person – including kids – will receive a modest salary, equivalent to US$ 200 a month, during their first 12 to 24 months in the country, plus social benefits. The government will pay their rent and utility bills. They will have a Brazilian ID like everybody else, a work permit and a diplomatic passport. 300 volunteers from civil society are involved in their integration in Brazilian society.
Among the refugees we find teachers, businessmen, housewives, whole families. Their first impression was predictably ecstatic. Brazil is not involved in wars (although there is an undeclared civil war in the big cities between the haves and have nots; they will be living in smaller, peaceful cities in the countryside). Women can use the veil and they won’t be harassed. There’s simply no ethnic and religious discrimination, no “clash of civilizations” paranoia.
There are no less than 14 million Arabs and people from Arab ancestry living in Brazil, especially in the south. It was up to Luis Vasere, from UNHCR, to put it all in perspective: “The Brazilian government has given an effective response to a humanitarian drama. It’s part of official state policy”.
All the best, Pepe “