Before the episode of racism experienced by the children of actors Giovanna Ewbank and Bruno Gagliasso in a restaurant in Portugal, reports of discrimination and xenophobia against Brazilians in the country were already flooding social networks. Many of the posts were shared by the victims themselves, who, according to experts and the Portuguese government itself, are more willing to defend their rights.
“In general, people are more aware of and attentive to the problem. They have identified the situations they experience and sought ways to complain”, says Cyntia de Paula, president of Casa do Brasil in Lisbon, an NGO that provides assistance to the Brazilian community.
In addition to the megaphone power of social networks and the growth of racial discussion in several parts, the diversification of the profile of Brazilian migrants in Portugal —with a strong and engaged presence of students, specialized professionals and entrepreneurs— may also be contributing to the expansion of this debate. public.
“The recent arrival of several groups from Brazil has certainly contributed to the greater identification of situations of xenophobia and racism”, completes Cyntia. She points out, however, that migrants still face other pressing issues, such as precarious jobs and rising housing costs.
In Portugal for five years, psychologist Mariana Braz says that it took her some time to recognize situations of discrimination, sometimes subtle, that she and her friends experienced as women abroad. To help give more visibility to the problem, she created, in 2020, the profile “Brasileiras não se Calam”. Although the project compiles testimonies of xenophobia episodes in several countries, most of the reports received took place in Portugal.
“I think this happens both because there is a large Brazilian community and because of the colonial issue, which still persists”, he says. “The Portuguese still see women as a colonial body in Brazil, which ends up influencing this issue of xenophobia a lot.”
The project quickly gained notoriety among the Brazilian community in the Iberian country. Although the stories are anonymous and do not officially serve as a tool for reporting, the psychologist believes that giving visibility to the topic and providing a space for exchanging views have helped Brazilian women living abroad to deal with situations of discrimination.
“I receive many reports from women who say that, after reading the testimonies and seeing in the comments how other people reacted in similar situations, they are also able to defend themselves”, she says. “The tendency is, at a time like this, for us to be paralyzed. If you already have previous experience, even if it’s not yours, you end up also managing to develop strategies to do something.”
Other Brazilians have dedicated themselves to disseminating important information about legislation and rights among their compatriots. An active voice in the movement that pressures the Portuguese authorities to resolve the delays in issuing documents for immigrants, the Bahian doctor Marcelo Sampaio began to mobilize after receiving conflicting information from official bodies.
The psychiatrist arrived in Portugal in March 2020, two days before the lockdown that, due to the pandemic, paralyzed the country – and a good part of public services – for more than two months.
“It was a difficult time, and I already had problems with this issue of documentation. So I delved into Portuguese legislation and saw that the text approved by the Assembly of the Republic is one thing, but, in the end, the employee who is attending often does another .”
After identifying that many of his Brazilian patients were unaware of their health-related rights, he began to share information about care for foreigners, including those in an irregular situation. When, at the beginning of the year, the system of automatic renewal of residence permits stopped working, leaving thousands of Brazilians with expired documents, the doctor helped to flood the responsible entities with complaints.
“In Portugal there is an agency that does not have the power of veto, but that can exert pressure and is a kind of supervisor of the public power. So, I encouraged each one, individually, to create a complaint about the SEF. [Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras] be violating the law, which establishes that the immigrant must request the renewal of his residence permit 90 days in advance.”
The rights claim movement is also present in universities, where Brazilians are already prominent in the associations of the main institutions. On the internet, the International Students collective has been helping to denounce episodes of discrimination that occurred in the classroom, among other situations.
In an interview with Sheet at the end of July, the minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes, responsible for the protection of migrations, acknowledged the increase in reports of xenophobia in the country, but highlighted that migrants are also more aware of their rights. The most recent data regarding ethnic and racial discrimination in the country are for 2020, when the Commission to Combat Discrimination registered 655 complaints – an increase of 50.2% compared to 2019.
This year, a new document should be released in September, and the expectation is that the balance of complaints will have a new substantive increase. “We have received more reports [de discriminação], but I think that a greater movement of denunciation was also created. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are more cases in absolute numbers, but that we are increasingly aware,” says Cyntia de Paula.
She also recalls the factor of the growth of the nationalist ultra-right in Europe, in the country represented by deputy André Ventura (Chega), who rose with a strong anti-immigration discourse.
Portugal is currently experiencing a new wave of immigration of Brazilians, who are by far the largest foreign community. According to official statistics, in 2021 there were 204,694 Brazilians legally residing in the country, more than 150% higher than in 2016, when there were 81,251. Although this data already represents 3 out of 10 immigrants, the real size of the community is even greater, since the SEF does not count those who have Portuguese citizenship or from another country of the European Union and those who are in an irregular migratory situation.
With the approval of new work visas for the country, promulgated by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa this week, the expectation is that the Brazilian community will have even greater growth from now on.