Operation: Opération: Ecuador



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Key Figures

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
2019 year-end figures
66,000 individuals (close to 22,000 households) received non-food items and hygiene kits
34,200  people received temporary emergency shelter assistance
8,900  people of concern received legal assistance from the national Public Defender and Ombudsperson offices, with the support of UNHCR
8,700 Venezuelan and 1,800 Colombian families received cash and voucher transfers to meet their essential needs
7,400  national identity documents were issued to recognized refugees
1,400  children-at-risk (including over 400 unaccompanied and separated children) were identified by UNHCR and referred to specific services
1,200  survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) were identified and referred to support services and nearly 5,500 people of concerned were sensitized to SGBV


People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2019 503,644
2018 374,879
2017 145,333


[["Refugees",54624],["Refugee-like situation",49950],["Asylum-seekers",25025],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",374045]]
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2019 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[25.03556459,21.807945349,21.343547440000002,38.02553615,74.61893865,84.50250959],"expenditure":[14.309817149999999,11.332826619999999,12.452143130000001,22.25339971,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[19.94556459,18.807945349,21.343547440000002,38.02553615,74.61893865,84.50250959],"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,null,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 the context of a contracting economy, the Government established a series of measures aimed at regulating the entry of Venezuelans, culminating at the end of August in the establishment of an entry visa requirement. This had a significant effect on the number of arrivals, with official border crossings registering a decrease from an average of 2,200 arrivals per day to 30. At the same time, irregular arrivals reportedly surged.

The Government also started registering Venezuelans, regularizing the status of those who had arrived in the country before 26 July 2019. The requirements of a passport, a certified clean criminal record, and high administrative costs, however, limited the accessibility of the process.

During the year, the Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also reached a multibillion-dollar agreement to support the economy. The agreed package included cuts in petrol subsidies, sparking weeks-long violent protests in October 2019 that left ten people dead. Some demonstrators publicly and violently expressed their resentment against Venezuelans.

Colombians continued to arrive in Ecuador in view of the ongoing security challenges in Colombia, mainly to border areas.

Population trends

By the end of 2019, Ecuador was host to almost 54,600 recognized refugees, 97% of whom were Colombian. The majority of asylum-seekers were Venezuelan, accounting for 74% of some 25,000 applications.

By the end of 2019 there were approximately 374,000 Venezuelans displaced abroad in Ecuador, more than 115,800 of whom had entered over the course of the year.


  • The Office supported the Government’s registration and regularization processes, which saw the registration of 167,000 Venezuelans and provided legal status to some 13,000.
  • UNHCR conducted regular protection monitoring of more than 4,000 households.
  • More than 700 individuals were submitted for resettlement.
  • UNHCR supported the national refugee status determination process by deploying 26 consultants to provide technical support.
  • The Office produced 15 videos aimed at improving public attitudes towards people of concern, some of which were watched more than 2 million times.
  • UNHCR provided consultants to Public Defender and Ombudsperson offices countrywide.
  • PRIMES was introduced as a shared registration and case management tool for the Government and UNHCR.

Unmet needs

The operation was funded at 63% by the end of 2019. Due to funding limitations, UNHCR was unable to provide multipurpose cash transfers to the vast majority of people of concern - some 31,500 individuals (only 18%) were reached.

Despite expansion of UNHCR’s programme in support of the national Directorate of International Protection (DPIN) in 2019, austerity measures significantly impacted its capacity to deal with the some 6,000 asylum claims made annually.

Working environment

The large-scale arrival of Venezuelans has required a shift in UNHCR’s response in Ecuador. While Colombians are still arriving in increasing numbers as a result of conflicts between armed groups over territory and power vacuums left by the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the Northern border, in 2018, Venezuelans became the largest nationality of asylum-seekers in Ecuador. Since 2015, close to 1,154,000 Venezuelans have arrived, of whom more than half in arrived in 2018 only. The majority of Venezuelan arrivals have moved on to Peru, while an estimated 250,000 have settled in Ecuador. The percentage of those remaining in Ecuador is rising and now stands at 26 per cent. Current arrivals are on average 2,000 daily with occasional peaks of up to 5,000. The majority arrive in conditions of vulnerability. The Government has a “mixed flow” approach, while UNHCR considers the vast majority (some 90 per cent) to come under the Cartagena definition. To date, some 8,300 Venezuelans have applied for asylum – up from the 1,500 people who applied for asylum in 2017.  
Most Venezuelans enter on a tourist visa and can subsequently apply for a UNASUR permit to regularize their stay, but many cannot afford the high costs and requirements and thus end up without legal status. The Government has indicated its willingness to lower these barriers as part of a national response plan. While access to basic health and education are free, services are overstretched in a fragile economic climate, and the presence of Venezuelans has led to increased manifestations of xenophobia.
UNHCR and IOM coordinate the UN response to the Venezuela situation. UNHCR has strengthened its presence along the Northern border and in the South, and assists through the provision of non-food items (NFIs), cash, legal aid, livelihoods and protection monitoring, as well as through the continuing strengthening of the RSD system.
UNHCR’s priorities in Ecuador are in line with the multi-year multi-partner (MYMP) strategy which aims at consolidating the legal protection framework though proper implementation of the 2017 Human Mobility Law; strengthening the asylum system through participation in the Quality Asylum Initiative; strengthening border protection and monitoring; enhancing access by people of concern to state programs and services; and expanding local integration prospects.
Ecuador is the third destination country in the region after Peru and Colombia, as well as an important transit country for Venezuelans. UNHCR is emphasizing the refugee dimension of the Venezuela situation and resulting influx. Therefore, UNHCR encourages the Government of Ecuador to respect the right to asylum by Venezuelans, and lower barriers to migratory alternatives for those who do not apply for asylum. Furthermore, UNHCR appeals to the international community for necessary support in view of the increased burden on Ecuador’s economy and society as a result of the continuing arrival of Colombians and the mass arrival of Venezuelans.

Key Priorities

In 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Maintaining access to territory and asylum.
  • National registration and issuance of IDs to recognized refugees.
  • Regularization of Venezuelans through migratory alternatives.
  • Supporting the Government´s national response plan to the Venezuelan situation.
  • UN anti-xenophobia campaign.
  • Identification of vulnerable cases and referral to institutions.
  • Strengthening the National Ombudsman and Public Defender capacity to provide free legal assistance to people of concern.
  • Promoting livelihoods opportunities for people of concern, including through a pilot with the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion.
Latest contributions
  • 28-FEB-2021

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