This report by the Refugee Council USA, a coalition of NGOs, focuses on the situation of the many Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Panama. As part of the research, the council travelled to both countries to observe the situation of these migrants. The report issues recommendations for both Panama and Ecuador on how to better handle Colombian refugees in their territories.
An excerpt from the introduction:
Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), a coalition of 26 U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on refugee protection, sent a delegation of RCUSA members and a representative of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) to visit Panama and Ecuador from November 1-9, 2010. The mission’s purpose was to learn more about, and bring increased attention to the complex protection and resettlement needs of Colombian refugees. The delegation went to Panama and Ecuador because RCUSA and CCR recognize that the plight of Colombian refugees and displaced persons is arguably the most persistent humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere. While many policy makers are aware that Colombia’s nearly 50-year-long armed conflict between guerillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian armed forces has resulted in the targeted persecution and displacement of over four million Colombians in the last two decades, the spill-over effects of the conflict and the growing refugee crisis in the region has received little attention from the international community. Approximately 500,000 Colombian refugees have fled to neighboring countries throughout the region, many of whom remain in need of durable solutions, particularly as local integration and safe returns to Colombia remain elusive options.
The delegation first conducted meetings in Panama City and in Panama’s Darien Gap border region, and then travelled to Ecuador where it conducted meetings in Quito and in two border communities, San Lorenzo and Lago Agrio. In both countries, the delegation met with refugees, NGOs, government representatives, and with United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives.
Read the report here (pdf)