Migration Policy Institute
Discussion on the Situation of Colombian Refugees in Panama and Ecuador
Shaina Aber, Associate Advocacy Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Andrea Lari, Director of Regions, Refugees International
Melanie Nezer, Senior Director for U.S. Policy and Advocacy, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Kathleen Newland, Director of MPI’s Migrants, Migration, and Development, and Refugee Policy Programs
Arguably one of the most persistent--and neglected--humanitarian crises in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia’s ongoing conflict has resulted in the targeted persecution and displacement of over 4 million Colombians in the last two decades. The spillover effects of the conflict and the growing refugee crisis in the region have 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. In November 2010, a delegation of Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) members and a representative of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) visited Panama and Ecuador. Their purpose was to learn more about, and bring increased attention to, the complex protection and resettlement needs of Colombian refugees. In both countries, the delegation met with refugees, NGOs, government representatives, and with the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This discussion focused on the situation of Colombian refugees in Panama and Ecuador; their living situations; legal status; their access to employment, health care, or education; and the treatment of groups of particular concern, like Afro-Colombian refugees, unaccompanied Colombian minors, and refugee women.