More Colombian refugees need support in Ecuador, says UN agency

More Colombian refugees need support in Ecuador, says UN agency

Almost three quarters of the 80,000 Colombians living in northern Ecuador need protection and support, and that number is likely to rise, according to a new survey by the United Nations refugee agency, which warns that many host communities are being overstretched by the arrivals.

Preliminary results from the survey by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicate that at least 59,000 Colombians living in Ecuador’s five northern provinces need protection, the agency said today in a press statement.

UNHCR, which has shared the findings with the Ecuadorian Government, said it expects the total will rise once figures from other provinces in the small Andean country are taken into account.

Authorities are working on a plan to quickly register and provide documentation for the Colombian refugees, some of whom arrived more than a decade ago, while others fled violence in their homeland only weeks or months ago.

UNHCR is opening an office in Esmeraldas, the capital of the northern Ecuadorian province of the same name, to help the thousands of Colombian refugees with education, health care and other services.

The agency said the local economy in many border communities is also under strain from the burden of having so many extra residents, and it is working with authorities on projects to help those communities.