Colombians who fled to Ecuador start returning home, UN refugee agency reports

31 August 2007

Nearly 1,600 Colombians who fled to Ecuador over the past week after an outbreak of violence have started returning home although the situation remains tense throughout the area, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

So far, only 27 asylum requests have been received by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ecuadorian Government's Office for Refugees.

“The rest of the group opted to return to Colombia,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today. “The group’s leaders negotiated their return with Colombian authorities, and UNHCR monitored the voluntariness of the process.”

Meanwhile, the situation remains volatile throughout the southern Colombian department of Nariño, Ms. Pagonis said. More than 250 persons were displaced in the town of Samaniego late Wednesday due to clashes between irregular armed groups. “These groups are also using landmines, posing a high risk for civilians,” she added.

More than 40 years of fighting throughout Colombia between the Government, leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and criminal gangs have uprooted some 3 million people.

UNHCR coordinated the distribution of humanitarian aid to the latest group while they were in the Ecuadorian towns of San Lorenzo and Ibarra.


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