Brazil: Land Of Opportunity, Ergo Land Of Fake Marriages

Once South Americans looking for residency in the US or Europe would concoct bogus unions with friends. Now in Brazil, the game has flipped.

María Martín

SÃO PAULO - For Rafael and Mariana, their days are now dominated by final arrangements for their upcoming marriage. He wants to bring his clothes over to her place. Before he does it, she wants to rearrange her apartment to open more space. At first sight, they do not necessarily seem to be a good fit for each other. But when asked, their friends swear they are deeply in love.

Anxious, Rafael hopes to be married in two months at most. The ceremony will be simple, only civil. After signing all the documents, there will be a kiss: a good-bye kiss. He will move back home and wait until he finds the right person to be at his side —a guy, probably.

Mariana*, 36, is a Brazilian housemaid. Rafael*, 31, is a Spanish university student waiting for a permanent visa to stay in Brazil. Their union will be one more in the growing numbers of fake marriages that foreigners use to be able to gain residency here.

"I'm a bit afraid, but I know three Germans in Rio and an American in São Paulo who did the same," he says. "I could look for a job in Germany, where I was before I lost my job. But Europe is getting worse and worse, while the situation here is just the opposite."

After an international marriage, Federal Police usually pay a visit to the couple to see how they are doing. If there is evidence that the union is a fake, the couple may be charged with identity theft, and the immigrant faces extradition. Though the practice appears to be on the rise, police do not yet have official data on the fraudulent marriages.

In spite of the risks, this option seems to be worth it for these couples. To the eyes of the world, Brazil appears to be the land of opportunities, with an unemployment rate half of the European Union's.

Marriage, however, is not the only way to fool authorities and stay in Brazil. It is also possible to claim a stable union, accepted since 2003 to obtain a permanent visa. "When I arrived here, my lawyer showed me how difficult it was to arrange a work visa. He was the one who mentioned the possibility of a stable union with a Brazilian girl. He never mentioned that it was fraud, but he knew I didn't have a girlfriend", says Roberto, 34, of Spain.

He paid R$3,000 ($1,500) to turn a friend into a supposed girlfriend. "We spent four months dealing with bureaucracy, taking pictures of our fake relationship. The lawyer told me we had good timing, because now there are too many requests, and the government is processing things much more slowly."

*Names were changed upon interviewees' request.

Read the original article in Portuguese

Photo - Shayan (USA)

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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