Birth tourism is bringing Russian women to Brazil in search of child citizenship

SÃO PAULO, SP, AND BRASÍLIA, DF (FOLHAPRESS) – Pregnant with her fourth daughter, Russian lawyer Alena Tcherepanova, 41, swapped Siberian winter for summer in São Paulo and immediately noticed the difference on her body. “As soon as I arrived, the swelling went down, my skin, my hair, my nails, everything got better. I didn’t have to wear a lot of clothes like I do in the cold of Russia, which is very uncomfortable for a pregnant woman,” she says.

The child, christened Anfisa in Greek, was born on February 26, 2021 by the SUS (Unified Health System) in a birthing center in the Jardim Ângela district on the outskirts of the city. Without knowing English or speaking Portuguese, Alena communicated with the team through a translation app on her phone.

Despite the language barrier, he says the experience at Casa Angela exceeded his expectations. “I was surrounded by affection, which is what a woman needs at this moment. It was very different from Russia, where, unfortunately, obstetric violence is very common,” she says. “This warm atmosphere helped me to relax. This is the kind of environment children should be born into.”

When first contacting the birth center, the team doubted that she would travel all the way to have the child in Brazil. “I wrote twice asking for information, and they answered me, but they did not seem to think that I would go there to give birth.” And it was only one birth: a month and a half later, the lawyer returned to Russia , with the baby already with a Brazilian birth certificate and passport.

Alena is not an isolated case: the demand for so-called childbirth tourism in Brazil has grown so much in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union that special agencies have been created to serve them. The price of the service varies depending on the support chosen, but averages around US$5,000 (R$23,000). There are also forums on social networks for the exchange of tips between those who want to come and those who have already experienced it.

The aim is to obtain Brazilian citizenship for their children. “The Brazilian passport opens many more doors than the Russian one,” explains sociologist Svetlana Ruseishvili, professor at UFSCar (University of São Carlos), who has published an academic article on the subject. “Birth tourism has become a strategy to raise migratory capital, that is, to increase opportunities for international travel.”

The Brazilian passport allows visa-free travel to more than 150 countries, putting it in 20th place in the Henley Passport Index, one of the most well-known rankings on the subject, 29 places ahead of Russia.

CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH

Only a few countries grant the right to citizenship only by birth – the so-called “jus soli”. The system is widely used in Latin America, and according to Ruseishvili, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are the three most sought after by Russian families for this purpose. The ease of regularization for parents of Brazilian-born children is another attraction. For example, in the US there is “jus soli”, but there are many obstacles to naturalization of family members. Travel and medical costs are also much higher, including the lack of a universal public health system, as is the case with SUS.

According to Brazilian law, the baby’s parents will immediately receive a residence permit in the country and can apply for naturalization two years later, provided they live in Brazil and take a Portuguese test.

São Paulo, Rio, Paraty and Curitiba are some cities frequented by these families but the most popular is Florianópolis as it is considered safe and has a good public delivery system.

In the hospital of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, which has been taking in Russian patients since 2014, 19 births have been performed by Russian women so far. “All provided a provisional address and a justification that they wished to obtain Brazilian citizenship,” the institution said.

The increase in the number of Russian women having babies in the capital, Santa Catarina, prompted an alert from the state ministry, which suspected the births could be linked to a child trafficking network. In 2019, the regional court ordered the federal police to investigate the cases, and one of the babies was even taken to an animal shelter for a few days.

In a statement, the PF said it conducted a preliminary investigation and found no migration irregularities or signs of a human trafficking crime. There was no investigation.

WAR LEADS TO INCREASE

Since the start of the war in Ukraine and the consequent isolation of Russia from Western countries, demand for childbirth tourism in Brazil has increased, says Olga Aliokhina Alves, partner and owner of Brazilmama, an agency serving Russian-speaking families since 2017.

“It has gone down in the pandemic, also because the borders have been closed. With the war, everyone is fleeing Russia and Ukraine, wanting a better life, a peaceful pregnancy, the right to live legally in another country,” she says, who attends an average of two to five families a month.

The conflict has also led to some families choosing to remain in Brazil after the child is born, rather than returning to Russia as initially planned.

Packages can only include assistance with obtaining documents or services such as accompanying doctor’s appointments and births, rental of real estate and travel recommendations. The VIP option also entitles you to a photo session, a trip to Rio de Janeiro, an intensive Portuguese course and a private driver, as well as cot, stroller and changing table rentals.

Businesswomen, doctors, lawyers and other middle- and upper-class women are the predominant profile among those who travel abroad to have their babies, says UFSCar’s Ruseishvili. A part of them also tries to fulfill the desire for a natural and humanized birth. “It’s almost impossible to have that experience in Russia.”

They usually arrive one to three months before the due date, alone or with husbands and other children. “Some fall in love with the country and stay forever, others only stay a few weeks before they get a residence permit,” says Alena.

Although she returned to her country after giving birth, the lawyer now wants to emigrate to Brazil permanently with her husband and four children. “We’ve been looking for a place to move with a milder climate for a long time,” he says. “Even though I’ve only visited São Paulo, Praia Grande and Salvador, I thought we could feel comfortable in any of these places.”

Leave a Comment