U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Ecuador
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||20 June 2005|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Ecuador , 20 June 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42c9288e2f.html [accessed 7 July 2015]|
Refoulement/Asylum Despite national refugee legislation prohibiting refoulement, Ecuador deported 11 asylum seekers on grounds that they lacked documentation or were working illegally: 9 whose initial denials were still on appeal and 2 whose cases authorities had yet to hear.
A 1992 Presidential decree implementing the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees provided that asylum seekers must apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before their legal status expired or, if they were undocumented, within 30 days of arrival. Cases were decided by the Eligibility Commission. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) could observe with a voice but no vote. The Commission received about 7,900 applications, held 52 sessions, decided about 6,600 cases, and granted about 2,400, 95 percent of them Colombians. The majority were farmers fleeing fighting, but some were youths escaping forced recruitment by illegal armed groups.
Denied applicants could appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but, prior to 2004, the Commission had not given reasons for denials, rendering appeals difficult if not impossible. In 2004, the Commission began offering reasons and the Ministry adopted safeguards to ensure that officers different from the ones who initially denied the cases evaluated the appeals. If their appeals failed, applicants had 30 days to seek asylum in a third country or apply for an immigrant visa. Most remained illegally in Ecuador. Those who resided with a refugee visa for three years in Ecuador could obtain permanent residence and citizenship.
In May, the Government began requiring Colombians to present judicial and police records on entry, exempting recognized refugees but not asylum seekers. Only officials in larger Colombian cities issued these records, and it was difficult or dangerous for asylum seekers from the rural areas near the border to obtain them. The number of registered asylum seekers decreased from about 960 per month in 2003 to less than 600 per month in 2004. Many crossed the border clandestinely in remote areas and reported that they were afraid to apply for asylum because they not did have the required records. The presence of Colombian armed insurgents in the border areas also deterred refugees from seeking protection. Farmers fleeing indiscriminate coca fumigation were not eligible for asylum.
In 2002, the Commission had stopped granting prima facie recognition of groups of refugees and also stopped using the broader refugee definition of the Cartagena Declaration, which included persons fleeing generalized violence. Recognition rates dropped from about 87 percent in 2000 to about 30 percent in 2004. The Commission denied cases for lack of corroboration, deemed even minor coca cultivation to be an exclusionary drug offense, and barred applicants on the grounds of internal flight alternatives within their countries or because they had given food or clothing to guerillas, often under duress.
Officially, Ecuador hosted about 10,100 refugees and asylum seekers at year's end. UNHCR estimated that about 34,900 Colombians in Ecuador needed international protection. In 2003, UNHCR had established a resettlement unit in Quito and, in 2004, resettled 443 refugees mostly to the United States, Canada, Brazil, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Detention The Government did not penalize refugees for illegal entry but detained more than 200 Colombian asylum seekers after charging them with or convicting them of crimes. It allowed UNHCR to visit detention centers and prisons in different locations. In May, a local human rights organization reported increasing complaints of Ecuadorian police extorting and physically abusing refugees and asylum seekers. The director of the National Migration Office admitted isolated cases.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued refugees identification cards and visas, valid for one year but indefinitely renewable. The Government issued provisional identification certificates to asylum seekers, allowing them to remain in the country. The certificates were valid for 90 days and renewable until the Commission made a final decision.
According to the Constitution, all individuals were entitled access to the judicial system, including those without legal status. In addition, any could seek review of administrative acts in the courts. A few nongovernmental organizations in Quito provided legal services to refugees on an ad hoc basis.
Right to Earn a Livelihood Ecuador permitted recognized refugees to work, to run businesses, to own and to transfer property, and to enjoy the protection of Ecuador's labor laws. The Government, however, prohibited asylum applicants from legal work, forcing them to work illegally in the informal sector. In April, the Ministry of Labor issued new regulations calling for the deportation of those caught working illegally, imposing fines of $200 per worker per day on employers. The regulations increased the number of deportations from 58 in January to 581 in July. The requirements for work permits included validated copies of academic degrees and contracts, but the Ministry issued instructions to provincial inspectors and regional authorities that refugee identity cards would also suffice. Nevertheless, refugees still paid about $60 to obtain a permit.
Freedom of Movement and Residence Refugees and asylum seekers could move about freely and reside where they chose but, since 2001, UNHCR had maintained refugee shelters in the north in case of mass influxes. Asylum seekers used them sporadically and temporarily. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued refugees travel documents for about $80. About 300 refugees resettling in third countries received such documents.
Public Relief and Education Recognized refugees enjoyed public relief on par with citizens. UNHCR gave asylum seekers emergency aid for three months, although the asylum process took about six. In June, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and UNHCR introduced the "Program for Community Support and Local Integration" to integrate Colombian refugees and asylum seekers and assist their host communities with legal aid, education, health, water and sanitation, training, and income generation projects. UNHCR funded three microcredit projects in different cities for refugees and host communities, supporting about 30 projects including poultry farms, a bakery, grocery stores, and beauty parlors.
Although the education law guaranteed education for refugee children, schools often denied them admission. In December, the undersecretary for education issued a letter to all school directors in Ecuador saying refugee children should have equal access to education. UNHCR and its partner agencies offered stipends for one child per refugee family but these did not cover the full tuition. Some families had to use the stipend for food or rent. The Ecuadorian National Institute for Children and the Family and the World Food Programme began giving micronutrient supplements in the poorest communities in the north that included some 400 refugee children. The law guaranteed refugees public health services on par with nationals but some health institutions reportedly did not comply.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Officially, there were no IDPs but some Ecuadorians living in border villages had to temporarily flee to the interior due to violence.
Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants