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Brazil to launch labor rights booklet for Chinese immigrants

Amid growing numbers of Chinese immigrants working in near-slavery conditions in Rio de Janeiro in recent years, Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and Employment will release a Mandarin-language information booklet on workers’ rights, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro. The existing Portuguese material is being revised for translation into Mandarin, and the release date is still open.

According to Labor Ministry inspector Márcia Miranda, they are planning to hand out the material during inspection visits. “We want to show these forced labor victims that they have the right to work under proper formal employment contracts, complete with unemployment benefits, severance pay etc. [The victims] are often led to believe that they will get deported if caught working in the country without proper working papers. This is completely misleading.”

She noted the Chinese are the world’s largest immigrant population and have been in Brazil for quite a while. But the exploitation of Chinese labor only came to the attention of Brazilian authorities in 2013, when a boy was found to be suffering physical and psychological abuse in Rio.

In August 2014, a Chinese teenager ran away from a pastry shop where he had been working 14 hours a day with no weekly day off and no pay, and walked 22 kilometers for police help. His co-workers were also found to work longer than the legal limit, but they earned wages. Only the Brazilian employees were getting full rights and pay.

This year, three illegal Chinese immigrants have been rescued from a pastry shop in Rio. In another operation, six Chinese and three Brazilian employees were found in poor work and accommodation conditions.

Illegal Chinese migration is a global issue, but according to Miranda, Brazil has been taking action against it. “This is something very hard to control. We need Mandarin interpreters, but they’re kind of uncommon. We’re only being able to [do something about it] in Brazil because our authorities are adopting international anti-slavery policies that other [countries] haven’t implemented,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are currently over 35,000 Chinese immigrants with permanent visas and 1,867 with temporary visas, and China is not even among the ten countries with the largest number of applications for temporary or permanent visas to Brazil. According to the Ministry of Labor, the number of temporary work permits granted to Chinese immigrants has declined from 2,891 in 2012 to 2,115 in 2013 to 1,348 in 2014. Rio de Janeiro is the top destination for foreign temporary workers.

As for permanent work permits, Chinese immigrants rank fourth, below Italy, Japan, and Portugal. In 2014, the Chinese got 276 work permits. Foreign nationals looking to work in Brazil must apply for visas on-line, prior to traveling. They must also file an application with the Brazilian Consulate in their home country.

Translated by Mayra Borges

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