Ecuador: UNHCR team to help with Colombian asylum backlog
UNHCR has sent a status determination team to Ecuador to support the Ecuadorian refugee commission's efforts to deal with a growing backlog of asylum requests from Colombians. The UNHCR team, sent to Ecuador at the request of the government, has been travelling throughout the border region, interviewing asylum seekers and providing training and advice to Ecuadorian officials.
More than 1,800 Colombians have requested asylum in Ecuador so far this year. Many of the new arrivals are from the Nariño and Cauca regions of Colombia and are staying in Imbabura and Carchi provinces in Ecuador. In the second half of 2000, over 12,000 people fled to Ecuador, mainly from the Putumayo region of Colombia. Most of them returned to Colombia without requesting protection in Ecuador, but some 1,480 were recognised as refugees, mainly in Sucumbíos province. UNHCR is providing basic emergency assistance, including food packages, medical supplies, and education and housing support to the recognised refugees.
Ecuador is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Regional Cartagena Declaration and has demonstrated generosity towards refugees.
UNHCR has a regional office in Venezuela and a country office in Ecuador, as well as field offices in the border areas in both countries. In Colombia itself, UNHCR has an office in Bogota and three field offices, in Apartadó, Barrancabermeja and Putumayo. Well over 1 million people are estimated to have been displaced by the conflict in Colombia since 1995.