SAO PAULO — More than 50 pilgrims who attended World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro are seeking asylum in Brazil.
Aline Thuller, Caritas' coordinator for refugees in the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, said the archdiocese received approximately 40 asylum requests from pilgrims from Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Congo. Thuller said two parishes in Rio are providing housing for these asylum seekers.
The Archdiocese of Sao Paulo reported that at least 12 pilgrims – including five Pakistani nationals – who attended World Youth Day have approached the archdiocese to ask for help in staying in the country.
Larissa Leite, who works for Caritas in Sao Paulo, said the five Pakistanis stated they felt a strong religious persecution in their home country and wished to remain in Brazil.
As with all who seek asylum in Brazil, the pilgrims will have their cases analyzed by the National Committee for Refugees, an agency of the Justice Ministry.
"As soon as they apply for asylum status, we are able to help them get work permits, national registry numbers and provide them with Portuguese classes while they wait for their case to be reviewed," said Thuller.
Almost 3 million people attended World Youth Day in Rio July 23-28. The event was Pope Francis' first international trip after being elected pope.