UNHCR chief highlights Ecuador's commitment to solutions for refugees
QUITO, Ecuador – During his first visit to Ecuador, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi praised the innovative approach taken by the Andean nation that allows thousands of Colombians fleeing decades of conflict at home to rebuild their lives here.
Ecuador shelters around 60,000 recognized refugees (95 per cent of them from Colombia) and over 200,000 other Colombians who have fled violence and a prolonged civil war that has killed at least 220,000.
Highlighting a new era of hope for peace in Colombia, the High Commissioner also acknowledged the important contribution that refugees can make to the development of the country that has given them asylum.
As Yenny, a 21-year-old mother of two who fled Colombia one year ago, said, "We want to stay in Ecuador. We have much to offer to this country that has welcomed us.”
"We have much to offer to this country that has welcomed us."
In a context where many refugees will choose to stay in Ecuador, finding solutions remains critical. To offer a comprehensive response to their needs, UNHCR is working with Ecuadorian authorities and its humanitarian partners to help the forcibly displaced rebuild their lives and provide for themselves in Ecuador.
Last year, the UN Refugee Agency and its partners launched an innovative poverty reduction programme, the Graduation Model. Aimed at supporting the most vulnerable households to find sustainable and dignified livelihoods, it seeks to lift 1,500 families out of poverty in 2016.
The programme is designed to benefit both refugees and Ecuadoran families, in line with the Government’s poverty reduction goals, and is seen as key to integrating the forcibly displaced in their host communities.
At a time when forced displacement has provoked strong, adverse reactions in some countries, Grandi said that Ecuador has set an example for the world to follow.
"Ecuador can become a reference in terms of hosting and finding solutions for refugees."
“As UNHCR, we believe Ecuador can become a reference in terms of hosting and finding solutions for refugees,” he said. “We’re committed to working hand in hand with the country in strengthening this process.”
He signalled the upcoming Law on Human Mobility to be debated in the National Assembly as a further opportunity for Ecuador to be at the forefront in refugee protection. “People don't want to be refugees forever, so we need to invest in building their skills and capacities so that sustainable solutions are available to them. The Human Mobility law can be a powerful tool to change the lives of refugees and others on the move,” Grandi said.
“We hope this law will soon be approved. It will be an important step to grant refugees and asylum-seekers access to proper documentation and rights,” he added.
María del Mar is a 22-year-old refugee and mother of a three-year-old child who studies medicine thanks to a scholarship in Quito. She said that Ecuador is where she wants to be. “Here in Ecuador I have learned to be independent, to be self-sufficient and to provide for my family.”
Grandi was visiting Ecuador as part of a week-long mission to Latin America. It is his first visit to the region since he was appointed in January.