“Brazilians are not second class citizens”

Liberal party Venstre wants to make it easier for citizens of some countries to live and work in Denmark. Brazil is not one of them. In a letter to the party's foreign spokesperson, Søren Pind, the Brazilian Embassy argues that the policy is misguided.

Dear Mr. Søren Pind,

“I am a master of my silence and a slave to my words” – Thomas Carlyle.

I am writing you to comment on a statement made on public television this week concerning a future immigration law to be considered by the Venstre party. According to citizens, both Brazilian and Danish, who contacted this Embassy, your comments on this future proposal from Venstre referred to eventual Brazilian immigrants as liable to “second class treatment”, intended for those who would not be granted a preferred channel and who do not integrate well.

Even though I am a liberal in my political and social beliefs, and am convinced that people have the right to say whatever they want freely, I also believe that when we say something freely we also have to listen. And I also believe that the freedom to say things has consequences that we have to cope with and reflect upon before we speak.

You mentioned that Brazilians are liable to this “second class treatment” and that a future immigration law would take as its main criteria the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI).

Without trying to teach you or Venstre how to develop a national policy for immigration, my first remark is that the HDI is a very relative index, and definitely not a reliable tool for developing a national policy on immigrants. These policies usually take into consideration the strategic areas of economic, social or cultural development that a country wishes to develop, in order to attract skilled workers, students or professionals in service, industry and agriculture. The HDI alone, in the case of Brazil, for instance, is a very weak criterion.

Brazil is the world’s sixth largest economy, and has 200 million people, out of which 190 million enjoy a relatively good quality of life (upper, middle or lower-middle class), education, work and health, while about 10 million live in poverty (under the middle class and below the poverty line). Our aim in the short run is to bring those 10 million people into the middle class. Even if our HDI is below that of the present developed nations, we are very close to it. If one read only the newspaper Politiken, one would think that all Brazilians live in “favelas” (slums), but the percentage of the population living in poor slum conditions is five percent, and the government has instituted housing programs that are continuously eliminating such conditions.

Brazil has the largest industrial base in Latin America, at least 20 highly developed urban centres with millions of citizens enjoying a high quality of life, the most sophisticated universities in the region, modern capital-intensive agriculture, a solid and modern service sector that includes financial services, as well as centres of excellence and innovation, such as the aeronautical industry (you probably fly on the jets we build at EMBRAER), the oil industry, and the automobile industry (Mercedes Benz, BMW and VW are increasingly opening factories in Brazil). Not to speak of the more than 50 Danish companies that invest and have settled today in Brazil, leading to a flow of trade and people from both countries (you probably don’t know about that either).

All this because Brazilian nationals are known to be skilled, educated and disciplined workers.

Without extending myself to explain the Brazilian nation, which you seem to know very little about except for the pictures printed in Politiken of a minority living in poor conditions (as if, for instance, the only pictures in a newspaper overseas about beautiful Copenhagen were those of its most depressed areas and not of Nyhavn), you apparently have no information about the characteristics of Brazilian emigration and the behaviour of Brazilian nationals when they choose and are accepted to live in a foreign land. Let me clarify:

Brazil is a country of immigration more than emigration. We are made up of Europeans, Africans, Arabs and Asiatic peoples. An important part of our population is also made up of the original indigenous peoples that populated Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese. Our blood is made of immigration.

Emigration is not an important trait of our society. Brazilians prefer to live in Brazil, and we are in love with immigration from the outside. But of course there are emigrants. The flow has been decreasing, but there are those that go overseas to work, study or because of family.

Emigration is a recent phenomenon, starting about 25 years ago. The main destination countries of emigration are the USA, Portugal, Paraguay, the UK and Germany, but the USA stands out as the leading one, with about 1.4 million Brazilians. In these countries, we are treated as first class citizens. We have a small amount of emigration to Denmark too, but since the Danish population is not big, it could not be as significant as in other countries mentioned.

But there are about 3000 Brazilians living here. And they are first class citizens. They are skilled workers (in the oil industry, energy and service sectors), students (in Copenhagen University and in Aarhus), and artists, as well as Brazilian men and women who married Danish citizens (our peoples get along very well, you see!). And you have probably never heard of one of the 3000 Brazilians working, studying or married in Denmark that is unemployed or has problems with the police, or is here illegally. Have you ever read that in the press, even in Politiken? This behaviour is the same in the US, Portugal, the UK, Germany and in our neighbouring countries.

Liberal that I am—and I am sure that you, being a member of Venstre, are also —I am very worried when legislation classifies persons or groups of persons as white, black, gays or lesbians, Catholics or Muslims, green or blue, first or second class, etc.

We are not worried whether we would receive a preferred channel in Venstre’s immigration policy, as this is an internal matter for Denmark. But we are worried when Brazilians are not perceived as well as they should be. We are already treated very well in Denmark and vice-versa. Danes and Brazilians don’t need tourist or business visas, and the numbers of Brazilians emigrating to Denmark are relatively small. Brazilian immigrants are always very well adapted. And this has nothing to do with the UN’s HDI.

Best regards,

Rafael Vidal, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Brazil Denmark


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