Operation: Opération: Ecuador



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Key Figures

2020 year-end figures
89,931 asylum-seekers received information on refugee status determination
43,207 people of concern to UNHCR received legal assistance and representation to access asylum and to prevent evictions
36,702 people received hygiene items or PPE
26,751 households (88,058 people) received cash assistance to meet basic needs, pay for rent or cover urgent needs
21,721 people were assisted with emergency shelter
6,338 people were assisted with capacity building, equipment and support for employment and entrepreneurship to reactivate their businesses or economic activities
5,452 people at risk or survivors of gender-based violence accessed safe shelters and received legal and psychological support
3,483 recognized refugees supported by UNHCR received national identity documents issued by the Civil Registry
1,528 children-at-risk, including 400 children unaccompanied and separated from their parents, were identified and referred to specialized services
2021 planning fugures
10,000 households will receive cash assistance
8,000 individuals will access legal services, including on refugee status determination and migratory alternative stay permits 
3,000 families will receive orientation towards employment, entrepreneurship training, seed money and financial literacy 
800 survivors of gender-based violence and 350 unaccompanied and separated children will receive integral support, including access to safe spaces, psychological support, legal orientation, specialized shelter and social work follow up
100% of asylum-seekers will be registered by the Government in proGres v4


People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 532,430
2019 503,644
2018 374,879


[["Refugees",54702],["Refugee-like situation",49950],["Asylum-seekers",26001],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",401777]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[25.03556459,21.807945349,21.343547440000002,38.02553615,74.61893865,84.5025096],"expenditure":[14.309817149999999,11.332826619999999,12.452143130000001,22.25339971,33.15395365,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[19.94556459,18.807945349,21.343547440000002,38.02553615,74.61893865,84.5025096],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[5.09,3,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[11.33982636,11.332826619999999,12.452143130000001,22.25339971,33.15395365,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[2.96999079,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In response to the pandemic, severe lockdown measures left refugees and migrants with no option but to enter the country through unofficial border crossings. Consequently, they were exposed to higher protection risks, including sexual exploitation, human smuggling, and trafficking. However, even despite these obstacles, arrivals of Venezuelans increased by 35% compared to 2019. 

Due to the severe socio-economic impact of the pandemic, 64% of those supported required life-saving assistance to cover urgent needs such as food and shelter. Also, 36% of people assisted by UNHCR needed guidance to access asylum and migratory pathways, to exercise rights or for protection reasons.

Through enhanced digital platforms, the office prioritized the provision of quality information, boosting public health responses, helping cover pressing needs and in support to livelihoods reactivation. 

Population trends

By the end of 2020, the total number of people of concern in Ecuador was 532,297 of which the majority are   are Venezuelan refugees and migrants.  According to official statistics from the International Protection Directorate (DPIN in Spanish) 70,095 people were recognized as refugees between 1989 and 2020, of which 96.94% are Colombians, and 0.74% Venezuelans. Due to the pandemic, asylum claims decreased 70%, from 20,896 in 2019 to 6,323 in 2020. For the third consecutive year, the majority of asylum seekers were from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Some 217,600 Venezuelans in Ecuador have accessed one of the existing visa options while more than 200,000 Venezuelans in the country still lack regular status. 

Key achievements

  • To ensure access to asylum and documentation during the health emergency, UNHCR supported the DPIN with 27 consultants to conduct virtual registration, interviews and, renewal of documents.
  • With UNHCR support, 55,258 Venezuelans received government-issued Temporary Exceptional Visas for Humanitarian Reasons.
  • Chatbot Help.ACNUR was launched and reached over 10,000 people with key information on assistance, shelter or regularization.
  • Following UNHCR advocacy and technical support, the national authority on financial regulation issued three resolutions facilitating access to financial services to asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons.
  • A UNHCR-supported epidemiological initiative, with participation of refugees and other community members, identified 470 cases with COVID-19 that were referred to public health services.
  • Donation of 183 Refugee Housing Units allowed the expansion of heath triage areas and hospitalization capacity.
  • Despite challenges to identify and reach people at heightened need during the pandemic, 463 individuals were submitted for resettlement.

Unmet needs

The operation was 54% funded. This low level, compounded with the impact of the pandemic, aggravated the situation of the population of concern to UNHCR in the country. As funds were insufficient:
  • Only the most vulnerable refugees and migrants were supported with life-saving cash or shelter, or received support to access national health and education services.
  • UNHCR was unable to provide specialized gender-based responses in refugee hosting areas such as Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, Santo Domingo, and Manta, where women and girls are trafficked for sex.
  • With borders closed and mobility restrictions in place, underfunding prevented the implementation of additional mechanisms to ensure unaccompanied refugee and migrant children avoided increased risks of forced recruitment and human trafficking.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

Thanks to flexible funding, UNHCR in Ecuador rapidly responded to urgent needs arising when the pandemic was declared, and was able to provide much-needed support to national health authorities to expand public facilities already overwhelmed. Unearmarked funding allowed for the quick provision of life-saving assistance in cash or access to shelter to destitute refugees and migrants evicted or lacking livelihoods as a result of confinement measures.

Working environment

Some 1.5 million Venezuelans have arrived in Ecuador since 2016. While most of Venezuelans have continued their travel further south, approximately 380,000 of them have remained in Ecuador. Despite the 2016 Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, and in view of continuing security concerns in Colombia, Ecuador also hosts an increasing number of Colombian refugees and asylum-seekers.
These population trends are likely to continue in 2020. As such, Ecuador will require additional support from UNHCR, humanitarian agencies and, beyond, from bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to ensure that it can receive and integrate increasing numbers of new arrivals. 
Ecuador’s asylum legislation will continue to be in line with international refugee protection standards and despite capacity and resource challenges, the Government is expected to continue undertaking efforts to address some of the shortcomings identified in the legal refugee protection framework. In addition, refugees will continue to have access to the Civil Registry, receive ID cards, and have access to the labour market, basic education and health services.
UNHCR will continue to work in partnership with state institutions, providing support in key areas such as quality of refugee status determination, access to asylum and migratory alternatives, access to legal services and to rights, and inclusion of people of concern in social protection programmes.
In addition, UNHCR will partner with a variety of UN agencies, as well as local and international civil society organizations, particularly those working with women, children, youth and LGBTI people.
UNHCR, together with IOM, will ensure leadership of the inter-agency response to the Venezuela situation, in close coordination with the authorities, bringing together UN agencies and NGOs to coordinate, respond and inform through the Working Group on Refugees and Migrants, which, at the end of 2019 included of 24 members.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will continue to:
  • Strengthen state/institutional capacities to receive, protect and locally integrate people of concern, and include them in public services
  • Ensure the provision of emergency assistance to new arrivals, including through cash-based interventions.
  • Provide information and support to new arrivals to enable a swift access to the asylum system, refugee status determination or to migratory alternatives and to documentation.
  • Strengthen prevention of and response to SGBV in coordination with organization participating in the Safe Spaces Network promoted by UNHCR.
  • Expand child protection responses, including alternative care arrangements for unaccompanied and separated children, in coordination with state and civil society organizations.
  • Provide advice and support in the drafting of proposed amendments to the Human Mobility Law, and to legislation on access to financial services for people of concern.
  • Support the Government, through technical and financial assistance, to continue ensuring that the asylum system is fair and efficient, and to implement recommendations of the Quality Assurance Initiative.
  • Support the Ombudsman and the Public Defender to ensure free legal assistance to people of concern in migratory/asylum procedures.
  • Work with national and local authorities, UN organizations, civil society organizations, host communities and the private sector to promote and support local integration efforts and afford new opportunities for employment and self-employment of refugees and asylum seekers, and ensure that host communities are supported and benefit from these programmes.   
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