The Invisible Crisis - Colombian Refugees on Ecuador's Border
The Colombian-Ecuadorian border of the Amazon basin has become the spillover area of human suffering caused by the bitter armed conflict raging in Colombia. According to the United Nations, the Colombian refugee crisis is the third largest in the world, tied with Sudan, after Afghanistan and Iraq. In Ecuador, an estimated 130,000-200,000 Colombians have crossed the porous jungle border seeking asylum over the past decade. In addition, an extremely dangerous environment exists for local civilians and indigenous communities with FARC and paramilitary cross-border activities as well as drug and human trafficking. The international community caught a glimpse of the volatility of this region when Colombian forces entered Ecuadorian territory in March 2008, disrupting relations between Colombia and Ecuador. Diplomatic intervention by the OAS Secretary-General and Latin American nations saved the situation from escalating into a full-fledged border conflict.
Despite Ecuador's liberal policies regarding refugees, only about 13,000 have been granted formal refugee status. The vast majority of Colombians are in hiding to escape the violence in border villages. Some NGOs estimate that hundreds of thousands of Colombians currently living in Ecuador have never applied for asylum.
This event is a Members' briefing. If you have any questions, please contact 202-225-3599.
Ambassador Louis Gallegos, Ecuador
Guillermo Rovayo Cueva, National Director, Jesuit Refugee and Migration Service, Ecuador
Aryah Somers, formerly with International Catholic Migration Commission