Hundreds turn up each day, many arriving penniless and gaunt as they pass a tattered flag that signals they have reached the border.
Once they cross, many cram into public parks and plazas teeming with makeshift homeless shelters, raising concerns about drugs and crime. The lucky ones sleep in tents and line up for meals provided by soldiers — pregnant women, the disabled and families with young children are often given priority. The less fortunate huddle under tarps that crumple during rainstorms.
The scenes are reminiscent of the waves of desperate migrants who have escaped the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, spurring a backlash in Europe. Yet this is happening in Brazil, where a relentless tide of people fleeing the deepening economic crisis in Venezuela has begun to test the region’s tolerance for immigrants.
This month, the governor of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima sued the federal government, demanding that it close the border with Venezuela and provide additional money for her overburdened education and health systems.
“We’re very fearful this may lead to an economic and social destabilization in our state,” said the governor, Suely Campos. “I’m looking after the needs of Venezuelans to the detriment of Brazilians.”