09:38 GMT +319 October 2019
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    In this May 15, 2015 photo, Syrian refugee Abdulhannan Mouhammed, left, attends Friday prayer at a mosque in Sao Paulo, Brazil

    A Place in the Sun: Syrian Refugees Get Warm Welcome in Brazil

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    Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the conflict in their homeland and are enjoying life in Brazil, Sputnik Brasil reports.

    According to the UN, almost five million people have fled Syria since the conflict there began there in 2011. More than half of them have sought refuge in neighboring countries, particularly Turkey and Lebanon, and over 700,000 have applied for asylum in the EU.

    Some Syrian refugees have also managed to travel even further afield: there are 2,480 Syrian refugees living in Brazil, comprising over one-quarter of the 8,950 refugees living in the country.

    Archeologist Ahmad Serieh, a native of Damascus who has lived in San Paulo for almost eight years, told Sputnik that Brazil has become a popular destination for refugees because of the relative ease of receiving a Brazilian visa.

    "It's very easy to get to Brazil, (whereas) it's very difficult or Syrians to enter European countries like Germany or France. Most of the Syrians in Brazil have relatives here since there have always been a lot of Syrians and Lebanese here and many people have aunts and uncles who help them," Serieh said.

    Serieh explained that he first arrived in Brazil on a temporary basis to work as an archeologist, after receiving his doctorate from the University of Warsaw in Poland, and then decided to stay in the Latin American country.

    "Living in Brazil isn't scary for me, every country has its own problems but in Brazil there aren't any serious ones. During these eight years I have never been subjected to violence, I live in peace, nobody has ever robbed me. I think that Brazil is a very good country for Syrians."

    "All the Syrians who live here like it. They have all found work, opened restaurants, there are a lot of specialists, engineers and doctors. I keep in touch with a lot of Syrians and nobody has had any problems here, everybody is living happily here in Sao Paulo or in Curitiba."

    Along with many other Syrians, Serieh frequents the Bibliaspa Institute, a library and research center on South America, the Middle East and Africa. Here, refugees learn Portuguese and receive advice and assistance on adapting to life in Brazil.

    "Every day, Brazilians are becoming more accepting of us, they are accepting of refugees and we feel at home."

    "At first, it is difficult to find a job, there are language difficulties and it's difficult to find a school for learning Portuguese. It's hard for children too, but after a year or so everybody has got used to Brazil. The Brazilian government just needs to help refugees find work, give them healthcare and good schools. That is all that refugees want," Serieh said.

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    Tags:
    Migrant, Syrian refugee, asylum, refugees, Syria, Brazil
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