Ecuador receives around 1,000 requests from Colombians seeking asylum every month, United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Luis Varese said in an interview with El Telegrafo Monday.
“The country receives more or less 100 requests for refuge per month,” Varese, adding that “if the internal conflict in Colombia isn’t resovled and if a global and integral decision isn’t found, requests for refuge will keep arriving in Ecuador.”
According to Varese, there are believed to be 135,000 Colombian refugees in Ecuador. The Ecuadorean government provides assistance to some 55,000 Colombian refugees, while a further 70,000 have requested refugee status.
Varese said that many Colombians refugees have no permanent resident and said that Colombia must provide more assistance to its citizens who have been displaced by war.
The UN representative said that while Ecuador provides $1 million in assistance to the refugees annually, and the UNHCR $10 million, Colombia provides only 10 cents for each officially recognized refugee.
Varese highlighted that one of Ecuador’s conditions for restoring ties broken in 2008 following a Colombian army incursion onto Ecuadorean soil, is that Colombia assume more responsibility for its refugees. He said he hoped that both countries will take recommendations made by UNHCR on the situation into consideration when they meet in October, as one of the steps resulting from a commission formed late August to address the problem.
Varese said that one of the biggest problems Colombian refugees face is stigmatization.
“What is a big concern in terms of refugees is the increase in discrimination and xenophobia. … The fact is that it is thought that because someone is a refugee they don’t have to abide the country’s laws, or they are “ciminals” because they are refugees,” Varese said.
According to Colombian Constitutional Court magistrate Luis Ernesto Vargas, more than 10% of Colombia’s population is displaced. Vargas said that the Colombian government does not have the effective policies to combat displacement and improve living conditions of those displaced that would be needed to address the problems highlighted by the court in 2004, when it ruled that the government’s policy on the displaced was unconstitutional.