Recently, a Brazilian immigrant in Switzerland made headlines when she claimed to have been attacked by skinheads, and the initials SVP (representing the right-wing Swiss People’s Party) were carved into her chest though she was pregnant.
The case drew media attention in both Switzerland and Brazil, television screens broadcasting the graphic images of the injured woman.
However, police say that she was not pregnant and may have carved the symbols into her own skin.
Natalia Viana is an investigative journalist who lives in São Paulo, Brazil. She writes at the “Frontline Club” about how Brazilian immigrants are seen abroad after such instances.
The changing image of Brazilian immigrants
Last week pictures of 26-year-old Brazilian Paula Oliveira, with the initials of Switzerland’s main right-wing party cut into her body were printed all over the world. She claimed to have been attacked by skinheads in Zurich, but later reportedly confessed to self-mutilating. Now she is being investigated for misleading the police.
The fact is that Brazilians are committing more crime abroad — and being more noticed for that. Today there are about 3.5 million Brazilians living abroad, including a proportion of illegal migrants. About half of them go to the U.S., but Europe and Japan are also key destinations. In London where I lived, it was common for Brazilian to be involved in all sorts of scams, from recruiting illegal workers to arranged marriages to Europeans.
Only this week, 50 Brazilians were arrested on suspicion of faking and selling fake passports in Mantova, Italy. A similar operation had taken place in Spain in January, with 33 Brazilians arrested as fraudsters.
As a consequence, the image of Brazilian immigrants is now changing. For many, they are no longer seen as the smiling hard working types, but as potential criminals, fraudsters or illegal workers. More than that, such perception has started to influence the attitude of several foreign authorities towards Brazilians.
When I first lived in the UK in 1999, saying that you were from the land of football and samba always meant a warm welcome. Nowadays, any Brazilian travelling abroad must expect to be treated as a criminal until proven otherwise.
Take the UK, for instance. It is estimated that about 200 thousand Brazilians live in the country, half of them illegally. Since 2006, about 6 thousand Brazilians are deported every year – making Brazil the leader in “returned” citizens. Last year the Home Office included Brazil in a list of 11 countries whose citizens should require a visa before travelling to the UK.
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