IOM Launches Report on Indigenous Migration from Venezuela to Brazil

Indigenous Warao community during IOM workshop in Boa Vista. 

Brazil – This decade’s flow of Venezuelans from their homeland remains Latin America’s most important migration event, and one of the region’s most compelling human mobility stories of all time. Approximately 3.7 million Venezuelans have left their country during the last four, including hundreds of indigenous people.  

 This population—its characteristics and specific needs—is now the focus of an important new publication from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

 The report, Legal Aspects of Assisting Venezuelans Indigenous Migrants in Brazil, represents the first comprehensive effort at identifying these migrants. It also combines an extensive needs assessment of the Warao people, indigenous migrants who have left Venezuela by land, as well as of those of other indigenous peoples in Northern Brazil, and federal and local authorities in Brasilia, Boa Vista and Pacaraima.  

 Research leader, Erika Yamada—who serves as chairperson of the UN Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—emphasizes that “although indigenous migration is not something new, the current flow of Venezuelans calls the attention of public authorities and civil society leaders to the need to create public policy and legislation aiming to protect this specific population.” 

 Thus, IOM’s approach spans three fields of intervention: human rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and domestic migration law, focusing how to translate those rights into policies. The report contains 35 recommendations covering seven key-areas: due protection of indigenous migrants, institutional aspects and migration governance, documentation, reception, education, health, and social assistance. 

 Ms. Yamada explained that in 2019 the UN Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be dedicated to draft recommendations on indigenous people´s rights in the context of borders, migration and displacement. “The situation of indigenous migrants from Venezuela is a case to understand the way the world is dealing with indigenous migrants’ human rights promotion,” she said. 

 The findings of the report are particularly important now, when the recent flows show an increase in indigenous population arriving in Brazil, with a new indigenous people, the Pémon, joining the flow originally composed manly by the Warao people.  

 According to IOM Brazil Chief of Mission, Stéphane Rostiaux, assistance to Venezuelans arriving to Brazil “has been significantly enhanced during the past year.”  

 Good practices, such as the provision of shelters exclusively for indigenous migrants that keep communities together and preserve traditional ways of life may be used as a reference point as other countries deal with indigenous people on the move.  

 The IOM report also highlights the importance of consultation with an indigenous population, which is a cornerstone for developing policies for access to education and health that are culturally sensitive and respectful of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. 

 In line with one of the reports’ main recommendation, two executive acts from 2018, exempt Indigenous citizens from Venezuela from the requirement that they present identification documents stating two parents' names after arriving in Brazil, as their native documents originally lack such information.  

Assessing the report Professor Elsa Stamatopoulou, director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Program at Columbia University, noted “indigenous people are among the millions migrating within and across countries in the Americas and around the world”. Whether this migration results from forced removal from their traditional lands, persecution and marginalization or extreme poverty, “the human rights of Indigenous migrants, including Indigenous women, are under threat.” 

 She praises the United Nations continued effort to “place focus on these challenges” adding that the “the IOM publication is a valuable addition to the topic of Indigenous People’s migration to respect and protect their rights.” 

 The launching of the English version of the report was possible with the financial support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State.  

The report is available in Portuguese (link) and English (link). 

For more information please contact Vitoria Souza at IOM Brasilia, Email:; or Marcelo Torelly, Email: