U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Ecuador
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 June 2000|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Ecuador , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8c50.html [accessed 25 May 2015]|
At the end of 1999, approximately 365 refugees were living in Ecuador, including about 150 Colombians, 60 Afghans, and 140 others of various nationalities. As many as 30,000 Colombians were living in Ecuador in refugee-like circumstances.
Ecuador is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. In 1998, the government approved a National Human Rights Plan which, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "established practical mechanisms for the respect of international human rights standards, including international refugee law." Under the plan, the government is responsible for determining asylum claims and providing recognized refugees documentation such as travel documents and work permits. The government permits asylum seekers to remain in Ecuador legally while it considers their claims.
Almost all of the 350 refugees in Ecuador have been determined to be refugees by both UNHCR and the government. In 1999, UNHCR received 77 applications for asylum. It considered 33 of the applicants to be refugees and forwarded them to the government for a final determination. UNHCR rejected 29 of the applications and at year's end was still considering 15 applications.
In 1999, the government permitted UNHCR to open an office in Ecuador. UNHCR assists asylum seekers who are determined to be refugees.
Most of the recognized refugees live in urban centers. The 150 Colombian refugees mostly arrived in Ecuador in 1998 and 1999. Most had to travel to Quito, Ecuador's capital, to apply for asylum.
The Colombians in refugee-like circumstances, however, live in isolated areas near the Colombian border. They fled to Ecuador at various times during the 1990s to escape growing violence in their home areas of Colombia. Although neither the Colombian government nor UNHCR officially recognized them as refugees, UNHCR told the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) that "many of them might qualify for refugee status should they submit an individual request for refugee status."
Most of the Colombians living in refugee-like circumstances preferred to remain anonymous. Some deliberately identified themselves as economic migrants to avoid being stigmatized ;local Ecuadorians sometimes branded people fleeing Colombia as guerrilla sympathizers. Many also continued to fear for their safety even in Ecuador because Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries regularly crossed the border into Ecuador.
In 1999, UNHCR and the Catholic Church assisted nearly 1,500 of the Colombians by helping them obtain documentation that would prevent them from being involuntarily returned to Colombia. UNHCR also supported community-based social services, particularly in the health and education sectors, that benefited both the Colombians and local people.
UNHCR has also implemented a program through which it has provided more than 17,000 Ecuadorian police training on the rights of refugees.