The Center for International Policy says that over the past nine years, an estimated 300,000 Colombian refugees have crossed their country’s border with Ecuador, fleeing persecution, threats, disappearances, murders and deliberate displacement by the parties to Colombia’s long conflict.
The Center for International Policy’s new report, “Ecuador’s Humanitarian Emergency: The Spillover of Colombia’s Conflict,” documents the consequences of the spillover of Colombia’s conflict into Ecuadorian territory and the extent of the humanitarian crisis in Ecuador’s border provinces.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D.-Mass) visited Ecuador in November of 2008, and upon his return to fellow members of the U.S. Congress that “Colombia’s war is literally bleeding – violently – in Ecuador.”
“Why is the humanitarian crisis in the Andes so invisible,” asked Rep. McGovern, co-chair of The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a members’ briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2009.
Guillermo Rovayo Cueva, National Director of Jesuit Refugee and Migration Service in Ecuador, shared his experience and knowledge of the issue during testimony to the Commission.
According to the United Nations, the Colombian refugee crisis is the third largest in the world, tied with Sudan, after Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Ecuador, hundreds of thousands of Colombians have crossed the porous jungle border seeking refuge over the past decade. In addition, an extremely dangerous environment exists for local civilians and indigenous communities with rebel and paramilitary cross-border activities, as well as drug and human trafficking.
Despite Ecuador’s liberal policies regarding refugees, only about 23,000 have been granted formal refugee status during the last eight years. The vast majority of Colombians are in hiding to escape the violence in border villages. Some NGOs estimate that hundreds of thousands of Colombians currently living in Ecuador have never applied for asylum.