Operation: Opération: Ecuador



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Key Figures

2019 planning fugures
86% of applicants have access to the refugee status determination
85% of reception arrangements are adapted to assist people with specific needs
70% of people of concern who have opted for local integration have locally integrated
42% of people of concern have formal access to work opportunities
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

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2018 374,879
2017 145,333
2016 127,390


[["Refugees",51614],["Refugee-like situation",49950],["Asylum-seekers",17050],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",256265]]
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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[20.97998614,22.04358705,25.03556459,21.807945349,21.34354744,37.98553615],"expenditure":[12.05890811,12.67403558,14.30981715,11.33282662,12.45214313,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[20.97998614,22.04358705,19.94556459,18.807945349,21.34354744,37.98553615],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,5.09,3,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[12.05890811,12.67403558,11.33982636,11.33282662,12.45214313,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,2.96999079,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational context 

UNHCR’s operation in Ecuador in 2018 was largely shaped by two distinct displacement crises: Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The insecurity at Colombia’s border with Ecuador, combined with the instability that followed the demobilization process, prompted increased refugee movements to Ecuador. In turn, the spill-over into Ecuador triggered internal displacement there.
In 2018 more than 950,000 Venezuelans entered the country regularly and an estimated additional 10% entered irregularly. Initially, the Government did not recognize that Venezuelans had international protection needs, but in the course of the year it changed its position to a mixed flow approach. Early August, a state of emergency was declared in three provinces as a response to a surge in arrivals of over 6,000 Venezuelans a day.
With few opportunities for education, recreation and livelihoods, the recruitment of young people to engage in illicit activities was a major concern. UNHCR worked with the Government of Ecuador to enhance its capacity to provide a strengthened response and provided training on the identification and referral of vulnerable people.

Population trends

At year-end, there were over 65,500 recognized refugees in Ecuador – almost 5,000 more than at the end of 2017. 
Some 17,000 new asylum applications were registered in Ecuador, representing a 250% increase in the overall number of asylum claims in Ecuador in 2018 increased by 250 % compared to 2017. For the first time, Colombia did not represent the main nationality of asylum applications, despite an 11% increase in the number of asylum application from Colombians. Venezuela has become the first nationality with 11,320 asylum applications registered In 2018, whereas the year before the number stood at 1,500 applications.

Key achievements

Since the adoption of the Human Mobility Law in 2017, UNHCR has provided technical advice in the drafting of a regulatory framework.
UNHCR strengthened its capacity at the two northern border crossings and established a presence in the southern border crossing of Huaquillas, distributing humanitarian assistance and conducting protection monitoring, including identification and referral of people with specific needs.
Due to UNHCR’s support to Ombudsman and Public Defender, people of concern had access to free legal assistance. The Ombudsman successfully challenged the legality of restrictive entry requirements against Venezuelans imposed in the middle of the year.
UNHCR continued its work with the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion (MIES) towards the gradual inclusion of people of concern into social programmes, taking advantage of the close and strategic relationship fostered with MIES at the highest level and because the objective remains the same (i.e. hand-over of responsibilities to state institutions) albeit in a longer timeframe.

Unmet needs

Due to funding constraints, combined with a drastic increase in Venezuelans, all the protection needs and vulnerabilities of newly arrived Colombians and Venezuelans could not be met. For instance, some 30% of Venezuelans meet the criteria for receiving multipurpose cash grants based on their specific needs. However, due to financial constraints, UNHCR could only assist 1.8% of the Venezuelans who remain in the country.
Protection of children was confronted with unmet needs. Considering that children represent 20% of the new arrivals during 2018, UNHCR needs to invest significantly in this area in order to reach required standards.
During 2018, UNHCR and partners provided orientation on acquisition of residence permits. However, UNHCR was unable to provide financial assistance to support individual issuance of resident permits, because of lack of resources and the high costs involved. UNHCR continued advocating for a reduction of costs and requirements.

Working environment

Despite the peace agreement in Colombia, Colombians continue to seek asylum in Ecuador. Up to 6,500 asylum-seekers are expected in 2018, including an increasing number from Venezuela and the Middle East.
Refugees in Ecuador have the same rights as Ecuadorian nationals, including the right to work but, like for many Ecuadorians, the economic situation makes it difficult to access adequate employment opportunities. Despite the Government lacking the financial means to address all needs of refugees, their legal protection and access to basic services are secured by the Constitution and Human Mobility Law. The services provided by the Government include access to education and healthcare. 
UNHCR will continue to support government efforts to implement the Human Mobility Law and consolidate improvements made in the asylum system, and will continue to advocate for local integration opportunities, including naturalisation.
UNHCR’s goal in Ecuador in line with the multi-year multi-partner strategy (2018-2020) is to gradually and responsibly disengage from direct assistance activities, so that refugee assistance can be included in existing public services and programmes. This is also congruent with Ecuador’s legal framework whereby the state has the responsibility to protect and assist refugees. However, the Government is expected to face challenges financing its social protection programmes. Despite the gradual hand-over of responsibilities, UNHCR will continue to work on advocacy, technical assistance and capacity building, in line with its protection and solutions mandate.

Key priorities

In 2018, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Strengthening the national refugee status determination (RSD) system. In addition to continuing to assist with capacity building, structural changes in Ecuador’s International Protection Directorate re required to meet minimum standards and avoid a recurring backlog.  UNHCR will provide technical assistance through its Quality Assurance Initiative;
  • The registration of refugees in the Civil Registry and issuance of national ID cards, thus allowing unhindered access to services;
  • Strengthening the capacity of the Public Defender and the Ombudsman to provide legal assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers;
  • Achieving self-reliance for refugees in Ecuador. In 2018, UNHCR will continue with the ‘Graduation model’, which aims to lift people of concern out of poverty, making them self-reliant, and facilitating  their local integration.
Latest contributions
  • 11-OCT-2019
    European Union
  • Netherlands
  • Liechtenstein
  • 10-OCT-2019
  • 07-OCT-2019
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 03-OCT-2019
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 02-OCT-2019
  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2019

    private donors

  • United States of America

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  • Netherlands

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