Ecuador Makes Refugee Protection a National Priority

Ecuador honors World Refugee Day by increasing access for thousands of refugees to jobs, critical services to improve living conditions

Jun 20, 2013, 10:23 ET from Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the international community marks World Refugee Day on June 20th, Ecuador, home to the largest number of refugees in Latin America, continues to implement wide-reaching reforms to deal with the considerable and constant influx of refugees across its borders. Under 2008 reforms to Ecuador's constitution, refugees enjoy all the rights and responsibilities afforded to Ecuadorian citizens, including access to free health care, education and other vital services aimed at improving their lives.

"Protecting the rights and dignity of the thousands of refugees in Ecuador is both a humanitarian responsibility and a national priority," explained Ecuador's Ambassador to the United States, Nathalie Cely. "The Ecuadorian Government has dedicated substantial resources to address their needs so that they can rebuild their lives, find safe haven, which makes us all safer and better able to pursue the prosperity that every human strives for."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are more than 43.7 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world.  In Ecuador, there are nearly 60,000 registered refugees and more than 1,000 new applications for asylum each month.  More than 98% of these refugees have fled Colombia since the year 2000 due to the killings, kidnappings and other threats in their home country.

To discourage discrimination and promote equality and respect for refugees, the Ecuadorian government conducts training workshops in both public and private institutions -- National Police, Armed Forces, judicial authorities, ministries, media, civil society groups, among others. After three years in the country, registered refugees can apply for Ecuadorian citizenship.

"Without finding safety in Ecuador, they [refugees] would most likely not be alive," said actress and activist Angelina Jolie, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, during her 2012 visit to Ecuador. "Nobody wants to be a refugee, to have to leave their home. Nobody wants to live on borrowed land and to have to beg for a visa every year and not be able to know what their life or their children´s life will be, or whether they can access any jobs or obtain medical help."

World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

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SOURCE Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, D.C.