A further 15,000 refugees fleeing violence in Colombia may arrive in Ecuador this year, according to Alfonso Morales, head of the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry’s refugee department.
Morales called on Colombia to dedicate more resources to the large amount of displaced people both within and outside the country’s borders, to stop the flood of the displaced into Ecuador.
Colombia has nearly 4 million internally displaced people, and another 600,000 in other countries. An estimated 135,000 are in Ecuador, and 53,000 of these have refugee status. Ecuador receives about 1,000 requests from Colombians for refuge each month.
“Colombia is directly responsible for the problem of the massive exodus of its countrymen across its borders, who are demanding international protection in other countries,” Morales said.
This theme will be of primary importance in a meeting to take place between the two countries in Quito on Thursday. Ecuador is poised to spend nearly $100 million dollars on the issue this year: $60 million on defense and $40 million directly on social services like education, health, and protection.
According to Morales, Ecuador has between 15,000 and 16,000 military and police forces at their northern border, while he says Colombia has only 2,000 on their side of the frontier. For this reason, he said Colombia should focus on controlling the departments of Nariño and Putumayo, which border Ecuador.
“It will take time to build a better reality [for Colombians],” Morales said. “As long as the dramatic situation of thousands and thousands of Colombians in the southern area of the country does not improve, people will continue departing for Ecuador.”