The unelected coup government of Brazil, led by Michel Temer, suspended all talks with the European Union Friday over resettling Syrian refugees in Brazil, ending the “open arms for refugees” policy of President Dilma Rousseff which was put in place in 2013.
BBC Brazil was informed by two people involved in the negotiations over accepting refugees that the suspension was ordered by the new Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, and sent to advisors and diplomats at a meeting this week.
The refugee plan was initiated under the administration of former Justice Minister Eugene Aragon in 2013. Brazil sought to obtain international resources to house about 100,000 people fleeing the conflict in Syria over a five year period.
The two unnamed officials added that the latest decision was part of the new “restrictive” government’s policy of not accepting refugees in the name of border security.
The government of suspended President Rousseff was hailed by international aid organizations over its readiness to provide a home for thousands of Syrian refugees who are facing a strong tide of xenophobia and racism in Europe.
Last year, the representative of the U.N. refugees agency (UNHCR) in the South American country, Andres Ramirez, said "Brazil has had an open door policy toward refugees. The number is still low, but this is certainly an example that should be followed worldwide."
Under Rousseff and up until April, Brazil had already welcomed some 2,200 Syrian refugees since 2013, when the country introduced a program of special visas in the Middle East to assist refugees, mostly Syrians. The policy was supposed to continue until 2017.
More than five million Syrians have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict five years ago. More than a million refugees made it to Europe last year alone. However, the EU has since cracked down on the refugee flow into the bloc.
According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 3,370 refugees, many of them Syrian, drowned in 2015 while trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.