Nearly 50,000 Colombian refugees are expected to benefit from the Ecuadorian Government’s nationwide registration scheme, which aims to recognize and document refugees who have been in the country for more than a year, the United Nations said today.
Ecuador is home to some 20,000 refugees, but an additional 130,000 people who may be in need of international protection have not been registered, either through lack of information or difficulty of access, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Like other countries in the region, Ecuador faces a major challenge of refugee documentation,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
The scheme began this week in two pilot locations in Ecuador’s Amazonian region along the border with Colombia – the small community of Barranca Bermeja and La Bonita. Three mobile teams made up of registration officials, representatives from the Ecuadorian Government and UNHCR observers are taking part in the pilot phase.
“The objective is to speed up the registration process, so that people in need of international protection can be interviewed, assessed and issued with documentation on the same day,” said Mr. Redmond.
According to UNHCR, the majority of refugees come from Colombia, where armed conflict and violence have forced millions of people to flee their homes.
UNHCR in Colombia marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights earlier this week by issuing a new call for solidarity with internally displaced people.
During a celebration in Bogotá on Wednesday night, 5,000 paper lanterns were lit up in support of internally displaced people and other victims of the conflict.
The celebration marked the close of the UNHCR-led Corre por la Vida (Running for Life) campaign to foster solidarity with the displaced and raise understanding of the massive human rights violations that lead to forced displacement.
The UN refugee agency has 12 offices inside Colombia, where it has been working since 1998 to support the South American nation in addressing one of the largest crises of forced internal displacement in the world.
It works from four locations in Ecuador, three of them along the northern border with Colombia. UNHCR also has offices in Venezuela, Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica, all of which have large numbers of Colombian refugees.