Ecuador holds first Refugee National Consultations in Latin America
Yesterday, Thursday, Ecuador started a nationwide process of consultations with refugees and organisations working on their behalf. It is the first country in Latin America to hold such consultations sponsored by UNHCR's Strengthening Protection Capacity Project, and one of eight pilot countries worldwide to take part in a Global Needs Assessment by UNHCR.
Refugees from all over the country are taking part in the two-day consultations in Quito, which will end Friday with the adoption of a common Plan of Action to address the main challenges affecting refugees and local communities. The event, organised by Ecuador's Foreign Ministry, brought together more than 100 people and was attended by UNHCR Director for the Americas.
Ecuador has the largest refugee population in Latin America, mostly from neighbouring Colombia. Refugees live side by side with the Ecuadorian people as there are no camps in the country. About half of the refugees live in and around the larger towns and cities, the other half in rural areas - some in very remote and under-developed areas like Ecuador's Amazonian jungle that lack basic services and infrastructure. Access to health, education, security and proper documentation were some of the main priorities identified as key areas to help both refugees and local communities.
Background: An estimated 150,000 Colombians live in Ecuador in a refugee-like situation. Around 18,000 of them have received refugee status. The rest are waiting for their asylum request to be processed or - in the large majority of cases - have never been registered, making it very difficult to assist them. Later this year Ecuador will start a large-scale registration exercise to help regularise their situation and help support them and local communities.