Venezuelan workers reportedly exploited under aid program

Venezuelan refugees arrive at UNHCR shelter in Manaus, Brazil May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly


After crossing the border from crisis-hit Venezuela into Brazil in late 2019, Henrique had one goal: find work to provide for his wife and children and send money to relatives at home.

By Fabio Teixeira and Emily Costa/ news americas

The 45-year-old secured a job in February 2020 as a truck driver via Operaçao Acolhida (Operation Welcome), the government program that provides humanitarian aid to Venezuelans who have fled turmoil and helps them to resettle in Brazil and find work.

Yet Henrique’s relief turned to despair after he left Boa Vista – the capital of Brazil’s northern Roraima state – and travelled across the country to start working for trucking company Transportadora Sider Limeira in Sao Paulo state.

As labor inspectors would later find, Henrique and other Venezuelans were forced to work illegally long hours, up to 18-hour days, denied time off and made to sleep in their trucks.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation analyzed six such cases where complaints were raised about or probes were launched into suspected exploitation or slave labor involving Venezuelans hired by companies via Operation Welcome’s resettlement program.

Interviews with various officials, workers’ testimonies, and exclusively obtained data and documents reveal how the program is routinely failing to vet hiring businesses, coordinate with local authorities, or monitor the welfare of the Venezuelans.

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