In 1976, the archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro started a pioneer aid work with refugees who were arriving at the city. They came from neighbor countries such as Argentina, Chile e Uruguai, fleeing from political persecution in their home countries. At that moment, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Dom Eugênio Sales, decided to implement a permanent service to aid refugees, providing them with shelter and support from the UNHCR, which would look for another country to receive them. Dom Eugenio Sales designated Cáritas RJ to be in charge of this duty on behalf of the Archdiocese, enabling the emergence of the first systematic work to aid refugees in Brazil.
Currently, the system has refugees from 52 countries registered and asylum seekers from 66 countries. The total number of refugees aided by Caritas surpasses 4,000. It is believed that around 150 people seek assistance in the institution per week.
PARES, the Asylum seekers and Refugees Aid Programme, is in charge of refugee population in Rio de Janeiro and had established partnerships to provide them with legal protection and promote their integration into Brazilian society. Its main projects are:
- Portuguese classes
- Art therapy for children
- Entrepreneurship courses to help refugees find a position in the labour market
- Yoga classes
- Dialogue meetings to exchange information on women situation, Brazilian labour market and human rights.
- Multicultural dialogues to promote cultural exchange among refugees with a particular skill and Brazilian experts from the same area of expertise
- Refugees in Schools: meetings among refugees and students in private and public schools