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Colombia / Ecuador: UNHCR monitoring displacement

Briefing notes

Colombia / Ecuador: UNHCR monitoring displacement

31 August 2007

UNHCR continues to monitor the situation in Colombia's southern department of Nariño, where some 1,600 people returned after a week of displacement in Ecuador due to a complex situation currently prevailing in the region.

At least 1,575 people started their return to Colombia yesterday in an operation facilitated by the local authorities. However, the situation remains tense in their area of origin, near the town of Tumaco, not far from the Colombia-Ecuador border.

The returnee group had been sheltering over the past week in the Ecuadorian towns of San Lorenzo and Ibarra. UNHCR coordinated the distribution of humanitarian aid to the group. In accordance with our mandate, we also distributed information and provided guidance to the Colombians regarding asylum procedures and the rights of refugees. So far, only 27 asylum requests have been received by UNHCR and the Ecuadorian government's Office for Refugees. The rest of the group opted to return to Colombia. The group's leaders negotiated their return with Colombian authorities, and UNHCR monitored the voluntariness of the process.

Meanwhile, the situation remains volatile throughout the department of Nariño. More than 250 persons were displaced in the town of Samaniego late Wednesday due to clashes between irregular armed groups. These groups are also using landmines, posing a high risk for civilians.