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The Brazilian bureaucracy and family reunification: ‘Here and now’ experiences of refugees in São Paulo


Brazil has a growing population of refugees, including more than 21,000 Venezuelans and people from other 80 nationalities. Although Brazil explicitly recognizes the right to family reunification to all permanent immigrants, many refugees are separated from their family members and face challenges to be reunited with their loved ones. Most of those challenges are a result of failed encounters with the Brazilian bureaucracy, including the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE), the Federal Police ‘here in Brazil’, and consular agents abroad (‘there’ in the origin countries) that are responsible for granting visas to their family members. This paper analyzes how refugees in the city of São Paulo signifies ‘here and now’, considering the family reunification process and the encounters with the Brazilian bureaucracy involved in this procedure. 


I conducted 20 phenomenological semi-structured interviews with refugees that asked for family reunification in São Paulo (the city with the highest number of refugees in Brazil at that time) between September and November 2018. I transcribed the interviews and coded them using Atlas.ti8. After that, I put together the codes searching for themes that emerged from the data. I conclude that the refugee’s ideas of ‘here and now’ are deeply connected with their families and success in the family reunification procedure. When they were able to bring their families, ‘here and now’ has a positive meaning. However, when they face problems in their family reunification processes, their ideas of ‘here and now’ are negative since they are worried about family members left behind and they feel guilty because of the problems they are facing. Family reunification and technologies of communication are also important ways to connect refugees with their relatives left behind, connecting ‘here’ and ‘there’. 

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Patrícia Nabuco Martuscelli

Patrícia Martuscelli is a Ph.D. in Political Science (Universidade of São Paulo, USP). Patrícia has a BA and an MA in International Relations (University of Brasília, UnB). She was a Visiting Scholar at the Zukunftskolleg (Germany), the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development (Switzerland), and the Carolina Population Center (the USA).  Her research interests are family migration, child migration, and migration and asylum policies in Latin America, especially in Brazil.  More information at: 

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