Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 12:36 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Ecuador

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Ecuador , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
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 2000, approximately 1,600 refugees were living in Ecuador, including 1,374 Colombians, 70 Afghans, 34 Iranians, and 122 others of various nationalities. A large majority (1,275) of the refugees arrived during the year. In addition, some 30,000 Colombians were living in Ecuador in refugee-like circumstances.

During 2000, more than 12,000 Colombians fled to Ecuador. Almost all fled during the last six months of the year. They fled primarily to escape increased conflict between Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries – and human rights abuses committed by both groups against civilians – in their home areas in Putumayo Department. Some also fled the effects of fumigation of coca crops through a U.S.-funded program.

A large majority of those who fled to Ecuador in 2000 repatriated voluntarily before year's end. Several thousand of the new arrivals sought assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ecuadorian government while in Ecuador. Those who did were housed in one of four temporary shelters and transition centers that UNHCR and the government established in Lago Agrio, near the Colombian border. The camps sheltered about 1,600 refugees in October, 2,500 in November, and more than 3,100 in December. Soon after entering the camps, how ever, most of the refugees either repatriated or left the camps to join relatives and friends in Ecuador.

Of the 12,000 Colombians who entered Ecuador during the year, 1,594 sought recognition as refugees from UNHCR. UNHCR granted 1,258 refugee status, many of them on a prima facie basis. It rejected the claims of 234 persons, and at year's end was still considering 102 claims.

During the year, Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries infiltrated Ecuador on several occasions, kidnapping or killing civilians when they did so. In early October, a local man told the Washington Post, "This is not our war, but it is now here, and we are helpless against it. We've always been a peaceful people in Ecuador. We don't know what to do."

Colombians in Refugee-like Circumstances

Some 30,000 Colombians, many of whom have been in Ecuador for ten years or more, live in isolated areas near the Colombian border, particularly in the departments of Carchi, Sucumbios, Imbabura, and Esmeraldas. Most prefer to remain anonymous. Some deliberately identify themselves as economic migrants to deflect attention from themselves and from their reasons for leaving Colombia because they continue to fear the groups that persecuted them in Colombia. Although neither the Colombian government nor UNHCR officially recognizes the Colombians in the border area as refugees, UNHCR accepts that many could be refugees.

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