Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 13:56 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Ecuador

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Ecuador , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c14c0.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2001, Ecuador hosted approximately 4,300 refugees and asylum seekers, including 1,800 recognized refugees (440 of whom were newly recognized during the year) and 2,500 persons whose asylum claims were pending. The recognized refugees included about 1,700 Colombians and 100 others. The asylum seekers whose claims were pending at year's end included 2,400 Colombians and 100 persons of other nationalities. In addition, an estimated 30,000 Colombians were living in Ecuador in refugee-like circumstances. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) facilitated the repatriation of 82 Colombians and six others during the year.

Some 12,000 Colombians fled from Putumayo Department to Ecuador in 2000, although most (about 9,000) quickly returned to other areas of Colombia. The refugees fled Colombia to escape increased conflict between Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries and human rights abuses committed by both groups against civilians. Some also fled the effects of a U.S.-funded coca fumigation program. Of the 12,000 Colombians who entered Ecuador in 2000, about 3,000 remained and applied for asylum in 2001. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) complain that the slow asylum determination process creates additional risks for asylum seekers, who do not receive documentation or work permits until they are recognized as refugees.

According to UNHCR, no mass influxes of Colombian refugees into Ecuador occurred during the year. However, on April 11, 2001, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported that some 600 Colombians had fled to Ecuador in early April to escape fighting in their home areas. The U.S. Committee for Refugees was unable to determine whether members of this group returned to Colombia or remained in Ecuador. According to some observers, as many as two out of every three Colombians who flee to Ecuador do not seek refugee status.

Many of the Colombian refugees in Ecuador live in Quito, the capital, or Ibarra, another of Ecuador's largest cities. Others live in smaller towns and rural areas near the Colombian border. UNHCR provides recognized refugees basic assistance.

The Ecuadorian government and people have been more welcoming of Colombian refugees than their counterparts in Venezuela and Panama because of strong social, familial, and economic links across the border. Nevertheless, local NGOs report that some Ecuadorians believe the presence of Colombian refugees has led to increased violence in the border areas.

Some 30,000 Colombians have been living in Ecuador in refugee-like circumstances for more than ten years. Located in the departments of Carchi, Sucumbios, Imbabura, and Esmeraldas near the Colombian border, the Colombians often identify themselves as economic migrants to avoid attracting attention from the groups that persecuted them in Colombia.

Effect of the Colombian Conflict on Ecuador

Both the narcotics industry and the conflict in Colombia have spilled over into Ecuador. In early 2001, the Ecuadorian military found and destroyed several cocaine processing plants near the Colombian border. Military actions associated with the raids on the processing plants led to the displacement of some 500 Ecuadorian indigenous people. In August, the Ecuadorian military discovered a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia's largest guerrilla group, in Ecuador that could be reached via a tunnel from Colombia. According to a February 2001 report by the Colombian government, the FARC supports two Ecuadorian rebel groups.

A report by a coalition of Ecuadorian human rights and church groups and universities called the situation in the border region "explosive." "The life of the inhabitants of the region has been [negatively] affected by the intensification of the conflict in Colombia, the presence of armed actors in the border regions" forced migration, [and] the economic crisis [in both Colombia and Ecuador]," the report contended. Types of violence that have traditionally been associated with the conflict in Colombia but that have not existed in Ecuador (e.g. summary executions), the report added, are now common in Ecuadorian departments bordering Colombia.

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