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City embraces migrants and refugees
José Pedro Martins
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Campinas wants to be recognized as a city that embraces the labour migration.

“Ayisyen mwen ye” means “I am Haitian” in creole, recognized since 1961 as one of the official languages of Haiti, along with French. Creole is a mixture of French, Taíno dialect and words of African origin, mostly of the Yoruba, Fon and Ewe languages.

This linguistic mixture is what is most heard before the Portuguese class in a room set up in the beautiful neoclassical-style building in Campinas, which for decades was the headquarters of the Companhia Mogiana, one of the most important Brazilian railway companies between the late 19th and mid-20th century.

The building that was once one of the architectural symbols of coffee power (implemented through slave labor) in Brazil now is a place where Haitians who left their country because of poverty or the 2010 earthquake learn the Portuguese language, receive information about job opportunities or, simply get together, strengthen ties, exchange affections, and share ideas and experiences.

The classroom in which Haitians receive basic notion of Portuguese is one of several services that the municipality of Campinas has been making available to labor migrants who are arriving in the city in bigger numbers. Campinas is the second most populated city in the state of São Paulo, with 1.2 million inhabitants, and one of the richest in the country: it has the 12th largest public budget among the more than 5,500 Brazilian municipalities.

“Campinas was built and reached national and international prominence thanks to the migrant workforce. It is fair that the city tries to welcome labor migration in the best possible way,” says Mayor Jonas Donizette, who also refers to the prominent historical presence of the Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish and Portuguese communities in the city.

In fact, the latest demographic censuses confirm a significant presence of immigrant workers in Campinas and the metropolitan region that this city heads, made up of 20 municipalities with 3.5 million inhabitants. It is one of the most dynamic and richest of Brazil’s 30 metropolitan regions, as illustrated by the Human Development Atlas of Metropolitan Regions, developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Highly skilled workers
According to estimates, there are 13,000 foreigners working in Campinas and metropolitan region. Most of these workers are highly skilled, and can be included in the labor migration group that the city began to receive starting in the 1960s, when Campinas and the metropolitan region began to attract many subsidiaries of multinational companies, mainly in the automotive, chemical and the high technology sector in general, such as 3M and IBM.

This pole of high-density technology companies was developed in parallel with the installation in Campinas and the metropolitan region of an important scientific pole, revolving around the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), inaugurated back in 1966. Unicamp, recently considered the best university in Latin America in the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking, was built with the collaboration of foreign researchers and professors.

“Unicamp owes a lot to foreign contribution, and in recognition of this, it has been a pioneering university in receiving migrants and refugees since the 1980s,” recalls Dean Marcelo Knobel, who has a history linked to international migration and which serves as a synthesis of so many foreigners who helped build Brazil in different areas.

Another local University, the Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas (PUC-Campinas), has many professors and researchers from abroad. It is the case of Adolfo Ignacio Calderón, of Peruvian origin. He is a postgraduate professor at PUC-Campinas and consultant to the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo (FAPESP).

“Campinas and the region are very strong in terms of research, and professionals from other countries have always made an important contribution. And they continue to come, attracted by research and development opportunities,” Calderón says.

New immigration wave
Repeating what has happened on an international scale, with an ever-increasing number of migrants, Campinas began to receive a new and diversified migratory flow in 2010. They are citizens of the world, characterized as refugees or immigrants, and it is because of them that the city began to structure new services.

The number of immigrants or refugees in the post-2010 flow is estimated at 1,600. The largest group of 1,200 immigrants comes from Latin America and the Caribbean, including the largest group of 900 Haitians. But there are also Bolivians, Peruvians, Colombians, Venezuelans and Cubans, many of whom work in the city and the region as part of the More Doctors Program. This program is an initiative of the federal government, resulting from a partnership with the Cuban government in order for Cuban professionals to work in the Brazilian Unified Health System, preferably in regions where there is a lack of doctors.

The most important public service structured to cater to this new wave of immigration in Campinas is the Reference Service to Immigrants, Refugees and Stateless. As Fabio Custódio, director of Citizenship Services of the Municipal Secretariat for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Citizenship points out, the Reference Service works in five areas to provide ample support to new immigrants and refugees.

On the Intercultural area, it seeks to facilitate dialogue between peoples of different origins and to raise public awareness of the tolerance and importance of welcoming people from different origins. Another area is the Regularization of Documentation, providing guidance to citizens and mediation before federal and state agencies, for the regularization of documents such as passports and work permits. A third area, Basic Care, covers procedures for foreigners to be assisted in health and social assistance services.

Sergio Vieira de Mello Chair
The area of Training Processes offers several courses for immigrants and refugees. It is the case of the Portuguese courses, which are mainly being offered for Haitians who represent the largest contingent of labor migration in Campinas. A large number of Haitians already in the labor market work in commerce, bars, restaurants and bakeries.

Haitians were the largest group of immigrants seeking the services offered by the Union’s Public Defender’s Office in Campinas on 20 June, when the World Refugee Day is commemorated. Residence visas, naturalization processes and regularization of visas and work permits are some of the most wanted services by the Haitian people at the Public Defender’s Office, in another demonstration of the local mobilization for the better integration of immigrants, refugees and stateless persons.

But Campinas wants to go even further in addressing labor migration, says Mayor Donizette. To this end, the municipality, together with Unicamp, approved on Oct. 19 the launch of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Chair in Campinas.

The academic chair is an initiative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which since 2003 seeks to promote teaching, research and academic outreach to the refugee population in university institutions. Unicamp is the 18th Brazilian university to join the Sergio Vieira de Mello Chair.

The Sergio Vieira de Mello Chair is primarily aimed towards refugees, but as its coordinator at Unicamp, Professor Rosana Baeninger, points out, it will be oriented at promoting studies and research aimed at improving public policies to serve the entire foreign population whether refugees, immigrants or stateless persons.

“This will be one of the great issues of the 21st century, and an institution like Unicamp and a city like Campinas must be prepared for it,” says Baeninger, author of several studies and books on the subject. —Latinamerica Press.


Inauguration of the Sérgio Vieira de Melo Chair in Campinas. / Martinho Caires
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Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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