Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Ecuador

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Ecuador , 25 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b459390.html [accessed 23 April 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.

Ecuador has an asylum system that meets international standards and has recognized far more Colombian refugees than any other nation bordering Colombia. Some 16,600 refugees were hosted by Ecuador, of which 16,300 are Colombians. The number of asylum seekers nearly doubled from 2002 to last year, reaching 11,500, with a backlog of 2,600 applications at year-end 2003. The refugee total reflects refugees, asylum seekers, and others of concern to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Ecuador struggles with its own political tumult and about 490 Ecuadorians were refugees elsewhere.

In spite of the large increase in the number of asylees, the system has not been able to cope with the influx of Colombians. An estimated 75,000 Colombians who fled the conflict to Ecuador are not recognized as refugees, but live in refugee-like circumstances.

Ecuador's asylum process incorporates the UN Refugee Convention definition of refugee and has an Eligibility Commission that meets regularly, with more than 40% of adjudicated cases approved in 2003. UNHCR participates with voice, but no vote. The government instituted a review process in 2003, which began to handle years of backlogged appeals of asylum denials.

Nevertheless UNHCR called the situation on Colombia's border a humanitarian crisis, and acknowledged that only a "small percentage" of the Colombians living in Ecuador had applied for asylum. In fact, Colombians often believe identification as an asylum seeker creates risks: members of armed groups are known to slip across the Ecuador border and Ecuador has deported asylum seekers, mostly because they were working without authorization. But most of the Colombians in Ecuador are poor peasants. Ecuador does not grant asylum seekers the right to work, although it grants it to asylees.

The U.S.-backed aerial fumigation program has shifted coca production in Colombia's regions bordering Ecuador and intensified conflict among the armed groups involved. Colombian refugees in Ecuador fled the heightened fighting, the fumigation operations, and, in some cases, the forced recruitment of minors by the armed groups.

UNHCR reported the forcible return of 13 asylum seekers to Colombia, allegedly due to their working illegally. On more than 300 occasions, UNHCR interceded to secure the release of detained, undocumented asylum seekers. UNHCR began a program to resettle Colombians from Ecuador funded by the U.S. government, with 150 departing for new countries in 2003. UNHCR does not promote return to Colombia, but did assist seven Colombians who wanted to return.

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