Congolese refugees face poverty and racism in Brazil’s favelas

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – The ongoing turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has killed 5.4 million from war, disease and malnutrition, more than any other conflict since 1945, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The suffering has led to 675,000 fleeing for refuge in other countries, the effect is being felt even more than 6,437km (4,000 miles) away in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

According to the latest figures, 658 Congolese are awaiting asylum in the city, more than any other nationality. Another 943 have already been granted refugee status. 

In the poor, distant north zone of Rio, many Congolese immigrants have found that life at the sharp end of gang-controlled favelas can be painful. 

From shootouts outside their windows, to suffering because of inadequate healthcare, to a struggle to get anything but menial jobs, many Congolese say they desire to go back to their homeland – if only it was possible.

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But there have also been many small victories – those who have carved out lives for themselves, learning Portuguese, finding work and adapting as best they can.

Meanwhile, they have kept as many of their national traditions – such as Congolese recipes and dress – alive, as a way of remembering their homeland.

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