Ecuador's Humanitarian Emergency
April 16, 2009 | Report
By Adam Isacson, Abigail Poe
The term “refugee crisis” usually conjures images of Africa, the Balkans and other war-torn regions. It may come as a surprise, then, that one of the world’s most severe refugee crises is taking place in the same time zone as Washington, D.C.
Over the past nine years, an estimated 300,000 Colombian refugees have crossed their country’s border with Ecuador. They have fled persecution, threats, disappearances, murders, deliberate displacement, and recruitment by the parties to Colombia’s long, drug-funded war between government forces, leftist guerrillas, and paramilitary militias, all of which violate human rights with great frequency.
These refugees do not live in camps, but subsist among the Ecuadorian population. 250,000 are “invisible,” with no rights to international protection, education, health, or employment. While Ecuador has the most liberal asylum policy of its South American neighbors, it cannot come close to doing what is needed to provide protection and basic services for the large number of Colombians arriving in Ecuador every day.
In November 2008, staff rom CIP accompanied Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetss) on a four-day visit to Ecuador's northeastern borderlands. This report discusses what they came away with from that trip.