Ecuador is home to 70,000 political refugees, far more than any country in Latin America. The refugees, almost all of them victims of the Colombian civil war, cost the government $60 million a year.
Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino hosted a meeting last week of Latin American officials entitled “Andean Subregional Refugee Consultation: International Protection, Solutions and Cooperation” that focused on the plight of refugees.
Delegates from 11 countries, as well as officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) attended the meeting.
Although Ecuador receives some assistance from Colombia and the United Nations, it shoulders most of the financial and social burden for the refugees itself.
Although the majority of Colombian refugees live in Quito (20,000), Santo Domingo (14,000) and Ibarra (8,000), Cuenca is home to an estimated 3,000. There are several assistance programs, including housing, for Colombians in the city and the majority of the work at the local immigration office centers on refugee concerns.