Operation: Opération: Ecuador



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Key Figures

2017 year-end figures
1,185 people of concern were provided with legal assistance by the Public Defender and Ombudsman with the capacity building support from UNHCR
851 families joined the Graduation Model, aimed at lifting people out of poverty and making them self-reliant
655 people were submitted for resettlement, of whom 643 departed to third countries 
317  government staff were trained on refugee law and RSD 
219 refugees received national ID cards, providing the same rights and access to services as nationals
2018 planning figures
86% of applicants will have access to RSD
80% of people of concern will be locally integrated
75% of RSD procedures will meet minimum procedural standards 
42% of people of concern will have formal access to work opportunities 

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2017 145,333
2016 127,390
2015 133,118


[["Refugees",47416],["Refugee-like situation",45000],["Asylum-seekers",11917],["Others of concern",41000]]
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2017 {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"budget":[21.17873588,20.97998614,22.04358705,25.03556459,21.807945349,22.70554344],"expenditure":[11.64044185,12.05890811,12.67403558,14.30981715,11.33282662,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[21.17873588,20.97998614,22.04358705,19.94556459,18.807945349,22.70554344],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,5.09,3,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[11.64044185,12.05890811,12.67403558,11.33982636,11.33282662,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,2.96999079,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

Operational context

After Lenin Moreno was elected president in 2017, Ecuador’s political stability was threatened by the prosecution for corruption of people close to the predecessor Rafael Correa, a marked difference in economic policies, and a referendum on constitutional reform. Financial restrictions affected social programmes, including those for refugees. In spite of the peace agreement with the FARC, security conditions along the border between Colombia and Ecuador worsened with the arrival of new armed groups and with violence spilling over into Ecuador. As a result, the number of arrivals from Colombia increased from the previous year. Venezuelans arrived in increasing numbers, almost half for refugee related reasons.

Population trends

In 2017, the Government reported close to 48,000 recognized refugees and some 6,800 new arrivals, 30 per cent more compared to 2016. The majority (70 per cent) were Colombians, an increase of 6 per cent compared to previous year. Over 1,500 Venezuelans sought asylum (compared to 500 in 2016), while more than 37,000 acceded migratory alternatives. An estimated 44,000 Colombians and 42,000 Venezuelans (out of an estimated 93,000) were in a refugee-like situation, i.e. outside the asylum system but still of concern to UNHCR.

Key achievements

  • Ecuador adopted the Human Mobility Law in 2017 with UNHCR’s extensive advocacy and technical support to ensure it is in line with international standards for refugee protection. The 2017 Human Mobility Law regulates RSD, statelessness, migratory alternatives, humanitarian visas and, crucially, the civil registration and issuance of ID cards to refugees.
  • UNHCR supported the clean-up of the Government’s database (proGres2), facilitating the issuance of reliable statistics for the first time since 2013.
  • The Government agreed on the implementation of the Quality of Asylum Initiative (QAI) as a result of UNHCR’s continued advocacy and ongoing support to the Government’s Protection Directorate to strengthen Ecuador’s asylum procedures.
  • For the first time refugees with disabilities received government assistance, and asylum-seekers were able to open bank accounts as a result of UNHCR’s ongoing advocacy for refugee inclusion in national social protection services.
  • UNHCR reached an agreement with the Government on a pilot project to include people of concern in social protection programmes.
  • The refugee status determination (RSD) strengthening project more than halved the backlog in the national RSD system - from 25,000 to some 11,200.

Unmet needs

  • The Graduation Model covered less than half of the 1,500 eligible families. Ecuadorians in similar conditions could not be included, creating tensions within the local community, hampering local integration
  • The needs of newly arrived Venezuelans could only be met for 319 vulnerable Venezuelans
  • UNHCR was unable to support naturalization because of the high costs involved

Working environment

According to the Vice Ministry of Human Mobility, some 233,000 people requested asylum in Ecuador, of whom some 60,300 were recognized as refugees; the majority being Colombians.  Despite the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Ecuador will likely continue receiving Colombians seeking asylum. Official Government estimates suggest a few hundred Colombians are arrive in the country every month. Interest in voluntary repatriation among this group is expected to remain low.  
UNHCR counts on the Government’s continued open border policy to allow access to territory and asylum to Colombians in need of international protection. UNHCR hopes that the Bill on Human Mobility will be passed by the National Assembly in late 2016 or early 2017, as it would allow the refugee legal framework to be brought in line with international standards and, consequently, the quality of asylum to be improved.  With presidential elections in 2017, political tensions may affect the operational environment. The current refugee policies underpin to a large extent UNHCR’s Multi-Year Solutions Strategy and are therefore crucial to the continuation of UNHCR’s work in the country. 

Key priorities

•    Within the framework of the Multi-Year Solutions Strategy (2016-2018) for Ecuador, aiming at the gradual inclusion of refugees in national plans and policies, UNHCR will continue to pursue the legal integration of people of concern, including the enrolment of refugees in the Civil Registry to facilitate their access to basic services and rights. UNHCR will financially support this process. Lack of funding would result in a decrease in the number of registered refugees. UNHCR will also continue to work with the Refugee Directorate to strengthen the asylum system.  
•    To promote self-sufficiency and integration of people of concern, both in legal and socio-economic terms, UNHCR will scale up the implementation of innovative self-reliance projects such as the Graduation Model, which initially targeted some 1,500 vulnerable families to help them be lifted out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. Lack of funding would result in less people of concern graduating.