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Changing the Migrant-Refugee Dichotomy: Brazil's approach to the forced migration governance

Latin America
Migration
Policy Implementation
Refugee
Leiza Brumat
Eurac Research
Leiza Brumat
Eurac Research
Victoria (Vicki) Finn
Universitetet i Oslo
Luisa Feline Freier
Universidad del Pacífico, Lima

Abstract

Facing increasing inflows of Venezuelans, and a growing backlog of asylum requests, in 2021 Brazil introduced made two policy innovations decisions in 2021 that challenge the clear-cut categorizsations of ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ that which prevail in Global North countries. These innovations policy decisions are, 1) despite legally distinguishing between migrant and refugee status on paper, these two categories are granted almost the same rights in practice; and. 2) at the border, dDisplaced individuals themselves state their preference as to whether they seek migratory or refugee status at the border. What can we learn from this innovative policy implementationthe Brazilian case? Based on 26 elite interviews with officials from the government and international organizations (e.g. UNHCR) , in this paper we draw both empirical and theoretical lessons from Brazil’s governance of Venezuelan displacement, regarding debates on the migrant versuss. refugee dichotomy, migrant agency, and policy contestation. Our findings show that the state’s non-distinction between migrants and refugees in practice is a pragmatic decision that, in turn, gives power to forcibly displaced persons. This article contributes to ongoing debates in migration studies about the policy implications of the categorical binary ‘migrants vs. refugees’, which often assume that states’ policies and international organizationsIOs make a clear-cut distinctions between ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ migrants and offer two different sets of rights to each category, namely, that . It is commonly assumed that, while migratory visas can accelerate their integration process, refugee protection status offers more sustainable protection. The case of Brazil is illustrative of wider dynamics that shed light on the complexity of policy decisions beyond the ‘implementation gap’.