In Brazil, one person every minute is forced to leave their home

March 2018

This week sees the Instituto Igarapé’s launch of its Forced Migration Monitor, bringing unprecedented research into the phenomenon of forced displacement in Brazil.


Refugees represent less than 0.005% of the Brazilian population, but another kind of migrant accounts for a much larger proportion: the internally displaced. Since 2000 at least 7.7 million people – 4% of Brazilians – had to leave their homes as a result of natural disasters, and development projects. The calculation is part of the Forced Migration Observatory (, which the Instituto Igarapé is launching today, 9 March. The institute is also releasing a publication (in Portuguese) with the full analysis of the data.

Efforts to date have focused on quantifying the number of refugees fleeing from armed conflicts around the world, and how many of them arrive in Brazil. This new data visualization tool created by the Instituto Igarapé focuses on structuring a quantitative metric that also takes into account internally displaced people.

“In recent years the country has become home to roughly 10,000 refugees of more than 80 nationalities and has granted thousands of humanitarian visas to migrants arriving from unstable countries. However, far less visible are the Brazilians forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters, systemic violence and development projects,” explains Maiara Folly, a researcher at Igarape Institute.

Visualization of data broken down by municipality

As well as the unprecedented survey results, generated by integrating different databases, the observatory provides a georeferenced and interactive visualisation of the distribution of internally displaced people in Brazil over time. The tool will be used for research and decision making regarding migrants, strengthening the rights of those affected by forced displacement.


R$ 800 million spent per month due to extreme weather conditions

Brazil experiences a higher incidence of natural disasters than commonly believed. Between January 2000 and December 2017 more than 6.4 million people were displaced due to floods, storms, landslides and other kinds of disasters: an average of 357,000 per displaced people per year. In addition to the the human cost – over 100,000 Brazilians have lost their lives in natural disasters since 2000 – these tragedies generate a monthly cost of R$800 million, according to the Centro de Estudos e Pesquisa sobre Desastres (Center for Research and Studies on Disasters). Nevertheless, prevention and impact mitigation strategies remain weak. In 2013, only 526 (9%) of Brazilian cities had established a municipal plan to reduce risks associated to natural disasters.


Almost 50,000 people displaced to make way for World Cup and Olympics construction work

Another major cause of forced migration in Brazil are massive development and infrastructure projects. At least 1.2 million Brazilians have been forced to move due to such projects over the last 18 years. Since 2000 the construction of more than 80 dams, primarily those built for the installation of hydroelectric power plants, forced the displacement of between 130,000 and 230,000 people. Meanwhile, the construction works for the hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games forced another 47,000 Brazilians to abandon their homes.

“And, given the reluctance of public authorities and private companies to provide information about the negative impacts of their investments, these statistics could be just the tip of the iceberg,” warns Robert Muggah, Research Director of Igarapé.

Intensity of migration in Brazil between 2000 and 2017. In 2009, the year in which a inundation forced the displacement of around 350,000 people in the Northeast, a record number of internally displaced people was recorded


Leaving home due to violence: an unknown number

Violence is another factor that forces people to move. In 2016, Brazil registered more than 61,000 homicides, an average of 7 murders per hour. Criminal violence is frequently cited as one of the main reasons for people to migrate, including to other countries. Surprisingly, little is known about the number of people who are forced to move due to violent crime. Despite growing evidence that entire families are routinely evicted from their homes by the activities of gangs and militias, there is no comprehensive reporting on the topic.  Many of those who live in urban settings and are forced to flee obey the “law of silence”, fearing fearing retribution for speaking out.


A problem still awaiting a response

Despite the sheer scale of internal displacement due to natural disasters, development and violence, Brazil has yet to mount an effective response. There is still no public entity dedicated to monitoring forced migration, much less policies in place to provide protection and fair compensation for those displaced. Instead, institutional responsibility and associated resources are scattered across different ministries and departments.

For those who can afford it, often the only means of claiming fair compensation for having been forced to move is by appealing to the courts.

“Despite the high number of Brazilians displaced every year, the country still has no legal framework that guarantees the rights of these people. Brazil urgently needs to develop protection and assistance policies for those who find themselves forced to leave their homes, cities or states,” says Maiara.



Read the full analysis of the database:

Read from: “Brazil: natural disasters and large-scale construction forced millions from homes” (The Guardian)


Other Igarapé Institute content on forced migration:

Brazil’s asylum system is lethally out of date (Robert Muggah, Maiara Folly – Friends of Europe, Nov 2017)

The dark side of the Brazilian development model (Robert MuggahMaiara FollyMaria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira – Nexo, Sept. 2017)

The Refuge Act demands policies and investments. Jota, (Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, Maiara Folly, July 2017).

Safe havens: why cities are crucial to the global refugee crisis (Robert Muggah – World Economic Forum, June 2017)

Organised violence is ravaging Central America and displacing thousands (Robert Muggah – The Guardian, June 2017)

Tempering the human cost of building Brazil’s dams (Robert MuggahMaiara FollyMaria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira – Devex, June 2017)

Brazil’s refugee policy needs a radical overhaul in response to Venezuela’s crisis, The Guardian, ( Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, Maiara Folly, June 2017)

Mesmerizing maps show the global flow of refugees over the last 15 years (Business Inside, May 2017)

Sanctuary Cities Are Critical To Managing The Global Refugee Crisis (Robert Muggah – Chicago Council, May 2017),

Migration and Rights, Jota, (Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, Maiara Folly May 2017).

Europe’s refugee crisis is making headlines, but Latin America’s is just as alarming (Robert Muggah – World Economic Forum, March 2017)

Brazil Should Do More for Venezuela’s Refugees and Migrants. Americas Quarterly (Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, Maiara Folly, March 2017)

It’s not legitimate to deny immigrants entry in the name of security and development Folha de São Paulo (Adriana Erthal Abdenur, Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, Maiara Folly, February 2017).

Disasters, violence and construction work will leave at least 1.6 million people displaced in Brazil by 2016 (O Globo, July 16)

Internal displacement hotspots: Navigate around the map and find out the causes and numbers of people forced from their homes, according to Instituto Igarapé data (O Globo)

Eviction victims are just statistics in Brazil, says Muggah (Exame, Sept. 2015)

Works for the Olympic Games could force 100,000 out of their homes (Exame, August 2015)

The Invisible Displaced: A Unified Conceptualization of Population Displacement in Brazil (Robert Muggah – Journal of Refugee Studies, Jan 2015)

Os Deslocados: Conceptualizing Internal Displacement in Brazil (Robert Muggah – Hasow,  June 2014)

A unified approach to conceptualising resettlement (Robert Muggah – Jan 2011)

A Tale of Two Solitudes: Comparing Conflict and Development-induced Internal Displacement and Involuntary Resettlement (Robert Muggah – OIM, Dec 2003)

About the Igarapé Institute

Instituto Igarapé is an independent think and do tank dedicated to the agendas of safety, justice and development. It is one of the leading Brazilian organizations engaged in the political themes of drugs, citizen safety and international cooperation. Its objective is to propose innovative solutions to complex social challenges by means of research, new technologies, influence on public policies and communication.


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