Refugees International (RI) told Colombia Reports that Ecuador and Venezuela need more support to deal with Colombian
refugees. The situation in Venezuela is especially concerning, according to a report released Tuesday by the NGO.
The report examines Colombia’s neighboring countries’ abilities to handle displaced Colombian refugees.
The report found that an estimated 120,000 to 200,000 Colombians are seeking refuge in Venezuela, while in Ecuador around 135,000 are “in need
of international protection”.
The report praises Ecuador’s “Enhanced Registration Process,” which processes one year refugee visas to refugees in a day.
RI Senior Advocate Andrea Lari told Colombia Reports that the Ecuadorean system is committed to “bringing Colombians [refugees] out of limbo”.
The report is critical of Venezuela’s refugee registration process, stating that even the initial screening phase can take up to six months.
Lari said that the processing of refugees in Venezuela “is simply not a priority.”
He added that the director of Venezuela’s National Commission for Refugees told RI researchers that the Venezuelan government is cautious in processing Colombian refugee applications because “they want to ensure there is proper screening to prevent the infiltration of ‘non-genuine’ refugees”.
According to Lari, a high turnover of army units combined with soldiers’ lack of education on refugee rights means that Colombian refugees “are at risk of abuse from the army” in both Venezuela and Ecuador.
Lari said that RI was told of instances of truck loads of refugees reaching army check points in Venezuela and being sent back to Colombia. He advocated for the education of soldiers on refugee rights and official paperwork in both countries.
The RI report stated that conflict in Colombia is spilling over into neighboring
countries and that “death threats, selective assassinations,
kidnappings and extortion are on the rise and now also affect communities that are
Lari said that there is a “visible presence” of guerrillas in rural areas and paramilitaries in urban areas in both Ecuador and Venezuela, especially near the borders.
The human rights advocate said that RI had encountered Colombians who had fled Arauca, close to the Venezuelan border, only to encounter the same insecurity in Venezuela.
In the report RI recommends “a
greater presence of international humanitarian actors in border areas”
and the provision of “resources for basic services and infrastructure expansion
which would benefit host communities and refugees alike”.
Ecuador recently told the United Nations that the funding it received to take
care of Colombian refugees is not
The report also recommends greater collaboration between the Ecuadorean and Venezuelan governments to address
the needs of Colombian refugees.
Lari said both nations would benefit from a round table discussion on the issue and that Venezuela may be able to learn from Ecuador’s policy.
He said that the two countries need to make a joint effort to respond to the needs of Colombian refugees and that raising awareness and training the military were the first steps.
A recent annual report released by the United Nation High Commission for Refugees reported three million people internally displaced within Colombia.