Ecuador's Humanitarian Emergency: The Spillover of Colombia's Conflict

Latin America and the Caribbean

Download the report: (PDF, 1.1 MB) 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. In November 2008, staff from the Center for International Policy accompanied Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) on a four-day visit to Ecuador's northeastern borderlands. We found the humanitarian crisis to be more severe than anticipated, and the need for action - from the U.S. government as well as international humanitarian organizations - more urgent than is generally recognized. 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 - Esmeraldas, Carchi and Sucumbíos. The Ecuadorian state's presence historically has been minimal in the border region, yet the influx of hundreds of thousands of Colombian refugees - 85 percent of whom remain close to the border - has drastically worsened living conditions and stressed social services. And the fact that Colombian refugees live among the Ecuadorian population and not in refugee camps makes it difficult for humanitarian agencies, such as UNHCR, to extend their services to the entire population in need - not to mention the 250,000 Colombian refugees who remain "invisible" and therefore out of the scope of UNHCR's assistance. After spending time in Ecuador, Rep. McGovern told his colleagues on the floor of the House of Representatives that "Colombia's war is literally bleeding - violently - in Ecuador." The CIP report offers six short- and medium-term recommendations for addressing Ecuador's humanitarian crisis and ensuring the well-being of both the Colombian refugees in need of protection and the Ecuadorian citizens living near the border. These recommendations include: 1) The international community, including humanitarian NGOs, UN agencies and foreign governments, including the United States, must provide immediate emergency humanitarian assistance to the refugee population in Ecuador. 2) Colombia must address the needs of communities being displaced by violence within its territory, through "integral reparations" for the conflict's victims as well as through full compliance with the guidelines set out in Colombia's Constitutional Court decision T-025. 3) Social and development assistance must be provided to entire communities that receive refugees in order to cover the urgent need, among refugees and residents alike, for basic infrastructure, health, education, and a state presence in general. 4) The United States should increase its commitment to Plan Ecuador and similar Ecuadorian governmental efforts through Economic Support Funds and Development Assistance. 5) U.S. contributions for Fiscal Year 2010 through the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) program of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), and through the contribution to UNHCR for the Western Hemisphere, should at least double over 2009 levels. 6) Assistance to protect populations from armed groups and crime, strictly conditioned on human rights performance, should be provided to the border region.