Congolese like Moïse are among the lowest paid immigrants in Brazil

Congolese like Moïse are among the lowest paid immigrants in Brazil

In the year that Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe, a young black man beaten to death in Rio, arrived in Brazil, 73 citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo were granted residency in the country, most on refugee status. It was 2011, and since then the annual figure has always been higher, with rare exceptions.

In the last 12 years, from 2010 to 2021, 2,015 Congolese were registered in Brazil, according to a survey by the Observatory of International Migration (OBMigra) carried out at the request of the leaf.

The real number of immigrants from the country located in central Africa, however, is higher. As the recognition of refugee status can take years, OBMigra estimates that at least another 1,400 Congolese arrived in Brazil during this period and still have not received a residence permit.

An important part of the immigrant community in Brazil and one of the main nationalities to have refugee status recognized in the country in recent years, along with Venezuelans and Syrians, the Congolese, however, are among the lowest paid.

The average payment to an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Brazilian formal labor market was R$1,862 in 2020, less than the general average for immigrants (R$4,878) and even below the average for African immigrants (R$2,698) . The data are from the latest OBMigra annual report.

The single lowest paid nationality is that of Haitians, with an average of R$ 1,696. The difference becomes even more latent when the scope of the analysis is immigrants from the global North. Portuguese, for example, receive an average of R$8,738, and Americans, R$22,425.

The numbers show that the average total income of immigrants in Brazil has been reduced in recent years – from R$10,926 in 2011, it dropped to R$4,878 in 2020, with values ​​already deflated. OBMigra analyzes that the drop is directly related to the change in the composition of the workforce, since the last decade was marked by the increase in immigration of citizens from countries of the global South.

Tadeu de Oliveira, coordinator of Statistics at the observatory, says that Brazil has difficulties in ensuring a dignified insertion of immigrants in society, even though the country has become more receptive in terms of legislation. “Although they have professional qualifications, many immigrants who arrive in a vulnerable situation suffer a differentiation. Professional training is not recognized, most of the time. When the skin tone is black, structural racism also enters, another component of xenophobia, such as in the case of Moise.”

The young man was beaten to death in a kiosk in Barra da Tijuca, where he worked. The family claimed that Moïse had gone to the scene to charge two late nights, and raised the hypothesis that this was why he was killed, although relatives did not mention the supposition in a statement to the police. The three suspects in the crime deny that the motivation for the beating was the collection of labor debt.

There is also the language barrier. Congolese and Haitians mostly speak French, the official language of their countries. Oliveira says there is a lack of a clear policy that establishes a translation system —so that they are better welcomed when they arrive— and that creates conditions for them to learn Portuguese.

Migrants from the DRC, in general, arrive in Brazil in search of work, but also in search of security, something rare in their country. In a statement to the newspaper O Globo, Moïse’s mother, the merchant Lotsove Lolo Lavy Ivone, reported that the family was fleeing an ethnic conflict when she came here.

Here, an important distinction is valid: the same gentile (Congolese) is used to refer to citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo and those of the Republic of Congo, different countries, although bordering. The migration from Congo to Brazil occurs in a much smaller volume than that originating in the DRC.

In almost constant war since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the DRC coexists with other types of tension besides the ethnic one. “A culture of war was created, almost permanent, which has to do with economic disputes, mainly around coltan [mineral usado em produtos eletrônicos, como aparelhos celulares]”, says Bas’Ilele Malomalo, professor at Unilab (University for the International Integration of Afro-Brazilian Lusophony).

Starting with the fact that the country lived under a dictatorship for more than three decades, from 1965 to 1997, shortly after becoming independent. The leader was Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997), whose legacy was a crumbling economy and a history of human rights abuses. The country’s first major war —which was then called Zaire—was precisely to overthrow it, between 1996 and 1997.

The second Congolese war, this one with international contours, came to be known as “the African world war” and involved different countries that border the DRC. At the time led by Laurent-Desiré Kabila, the country watched rebels supported by the Ugandan and Rwandan governments try to overthrow the government, while Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe supported it.

The conflict, which lasted from 1998 to 2003 and left an estimated 3 million to 5.4 million dead, exposed what, to this day, is at the center of disputes in the DRC: mineral wealth, concentrated in the eastern part of the territory. Congolese, on the border with Rwanda and Uganda. Natural resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese and coltan have become a kind of war economy.

The instability did not end with the signing of peace agreements. Living with armed groups continues to expose Congolese people to violence. One of the main groups that have destabilized the country is the Allied Democratic Forces (FDA), formed in eastern DRC in 1995 by two groups opposing the Ugandan government. Initially, the group had Congolese support.

Violence escalated, and in 2013 the DRC military launched a major offensive against the group. In 2015, the FDA, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and made up of 1,000 fighters, according to United Nations estimates, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, although the real link between the groups is unclear.

The volume of attacks, with consequences for civilians, has grown in recent years. The Kivu Security Monitor, which maps unrest in the country’s turbulent eastern region, estimates nearly 14,000 deaths and more than 7,200 people kidnapped — or believed to have disappeared in the midst of conflicts — since 2017.​

The country is now led by Félix Tshisekedi, elected in an election with international accusations of fraud. Bas’Ilele Malomalo, of Unilab, says the president has been pushing forward a mild economic recovery started by his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, but has not been able to translate it into human development.

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped either — 1,278 people have officially died in the country from Covid, a figure that is admittedly underreported. “There is a chronic problem of leadership. Leaders are not able to strengthen the Army and the machinery of public administration. Nor have they been able to expand the extractive economy to other sectors”, says Malomalo.

In Brazil since 1997, the university professor came with the help of a convent to study. He received a degree in theology, a master’s degree in religious sciences and a doctorate in sociology. Rarely did he return to the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I feared for my life. There, I don’t feel safe.”

Source: Folha

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