Brazil: Afghans Camped At São Paulo Airport During Ramadan


By Elaine Patricia Cruz 

At least 60 Afghans, including children, were camped Monday (Mar. 11) in Terminal 2 at Guarulhos International Airport, next to the Humanized Migrant Assistance Facility, stated the Afghan Refugee Rescue Organization. This number is relatively smaller compared to the situation experienced in previous years.

The Agência Brasil report visited the airport on the second day of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims around the world, and documented the departure of some of these Afghans to a shelter. According to authorities in the city of Guarulhos, two women and four men left the airport to be sheltered at the Ebenezer Special Assistance Center (CAE), in São Paulo.

One of these individuals is a 30-year-old woman who previously worked at the Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan but prefers to remain anonymous. She mentioned arriving in Brazil alone, with her family still residing in Pakistan. After spending 30 days living at the airport, she expressed her relief at being able to move to a shelter, especially since her best friend, who arrived in Brazil about 10 days ago, will be joining her there.

Another individual who shared a similar experience was a tailor and father of eight children, who had been at the airport for 20 days. He explained that he was the only one in his family who had managed to obtain a visa to Brazil, leaving his wife and children behind in Afghanistan, hopeful that they would eventually receive authorization to join him. Speaking to the Agência Brasil reporter, he expressed his desire to settle in Brazil, saying, “I want to live here,” and added, “I hope my children can also come to Brazil.”

A 27-year-old man, who previously worked at an embassy in Afghanistan and is fluent in English, reported that he arrived in Brazil alone approximately 13 days ago. Despite acknowledging that the current conditions are not ideal, he remains optimistic, expressing his hope for safety in Brazil. “I had to look for a better place. I hope this place will offer me a brighter future,” he stated. “I intend to learn Portuguese and acquire Brazilian nationality. I have some savings and wish to start my own business here.”

However, not all of these Afghans were able to find shelter. Some will have to continue sleeping at the airport, including a 24-year-old man who expressed deep gratitude for making it to Brazil. “You saved our lives,” he said. Arriving in Brazil about 10 days ago, he explained in English that despite still living at the airport, he has no complaints about the treatment received from the Brazilian people. “We cannot complain about the conditions here because you saved our lives,” he emphasized.


Since the Taliban took power in 2021, millions of Afghans have fled the country to escape a regime that violates their rights. Brazil has become a destination for some of these Afghans following the publication of an interministerial decree in September 2021, which authorized temporary visas and residence for humanitarian reasons.

With the issuance of these humanitarian visas, Afghans started arriving at Cumbica Airport in Guarulhos. However, upon arrival in Brazil, these immigrants face a lack of comprehensive public assistance policies and often end up waiting for days at the airport before being transferred to a shelter. In the meantime, they receive meals provided by Guarulhos city authorities or by volunteers.

“This situation is inhumane and violates all the [international] pacts that Brazil upholds. They [Afghans] are sleeping and living at the airport without mattresses,” lamented Aline Sobral, one of the founders of Coletivo Frente Afegã, a group of volunteers supporting Afghans arriving in Brazil.


Guarulhos authorities reported to Agência Brasil that, due to Ramadan, a period during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, they have implemented a special meal distribution regime for Afghans at the airport. ‘During lunch, only children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with certain comorbidities receive meals. Everyone is included in the dinner service,’ stated the municipal administration.

The State Secretariat for Social Development (SEDS) reported that it has begun work to adapt a new space in the metropolitan region of São Paulo to accommodate an additional 150 refugees. “The first to be transferred will be the migrants who remain camped at Guarulhos airport,” the secretariat stated, adding that the new facility should be operational within the next 60 days.

The secretariat also reported that last year, it invested over BRL 6 million to accommodate migrants and refugees in two halfway houses and eight residences with a capacity to house more than 200 people. Additionally, they stated that they maintain constant dialogue with the federal government, “which is responsible for issuing humanitarian visas and defining the internalization policy for migrants in the country.” When contacted by Agência Brasil, the federal government had not yet commented on the issue.

GRU Airport, the concessionaire that manages the airport, informed Agência Brasil that direct action in assisting Afghan families arriving in Brazil is carried out by the city of Guarulhos and other competent public authorities.


Agência Brasil (ABr) is the national public news agency, run by the Brazilian government. It is a part of the public media corporation Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC), created in 2007 to unite two government media enterprises Radiobrás and TVE (Televisão Educativa).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *